University of Rochester students create prototype that can detect sepsis using sweat


ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Imagine when you were a student, with aspirations to change the world. One group of students at University of Rochester may have just done that, as they have created a prototype called “Bio-Spire” that can help doctor’s diagnose sepsis much faster than current methods.

Sepsis is one of the most common serious illnesses in our country. It’s is defined loosely as the condition when the body tries to send chemicals fight an infection, but those chemicals end up causing body-wide inflammation

There are nearly 2 million cases each year, and is the number one cause of hospitalization each year. It’s easy to treat, but time-consuming to detect and diagnose. So a group of University of Rochester students decided to tackle this as a class project.

“Sepsis can present itself like a lot of other diseases or illness,” Maria Schapfel said, one of the team members, and a junior majoring in molecular genetics. “One that commonly looks similar to sepsis is heart problems.”

Current testing methods take a long time, and doctors may miss the window to treat the patient — a time frame called “the golden hour” — which when administered on time is easily done.

“If we are doing blood cultures, it takes twenty four hours, and it would be be really complicated for the patient, and not give doctors time to react,” said Ena Haseljic, another molecular genetics major explains.

The team took a class starting in April that had them start with an idea to a prototype for an international competition called “iGEM” — or International Genetically Engineered Machine — and would go on to win a gold medal. Their machine is called “Bio-Spire,” and it uses sweat to detect the levels of biomarkers that can indicate if a patient has sepsis.

Why sweat? Hasejlic says that using sweat is non-invasive, and gives an exponentially faster response than a blood culture. The team also says that unlike a blood culture, sweat could monitored constantly. Team member Blaine Dillingham, a sophomore math major, breaks this machine down for us.

“We put this sleeve on them, and it wicks sweat using capillary properties to draw the sweat across the electrodes,” he said. “And those electrical property changes are reflected in the potentiostat, which we built for orders of magnitude lower levels of cost than you buy one for. “

This prototype might be a long ways off from applied use, ut their blood, sweat, and tears have sure paid off.

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