A novel sensor could dramatically accelerate the process of diagnosing sepsis, a leading cause of death in U.S. hospitals that kills nearly 250,000 patients annually. To diagnose sepsis, doctors traditionally rely on various diagnostic tools, including vital signs, blood tests, and other imaging and lab tests.

The microfluidics device could help diagnose sepsis. (Credit: Felice Frankel/MIT) slider-crank mechanism. (Credit: AIP)

One promising indicator of sepsis is interleukin-6 (IL-6), a protein produced in response to inflammation. The new microfluidics-based system automatically detects clinically significant levels of IL-6 for sepsis diagnosis in about 25 minutes, using less than a finger prick of blood.

In one microfluidic channel, microbeads laced with antibodies mix with a blood sample to capture the IL-6 biomarker. In another channel, only beads containing the biomarker attach to an electrode. Running voltage through the electrode produces an electrical signal for each biomarker-laced bead, which is then converted into the biomarker concentration level.

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