Prof. Wen-hsin Hsieh from the Department of Mechanical Engineering invents a rapid screening platform for inflammatory factors of sepsis that produces results within an hour

This is an image

     Rapid screening for inflammatory factors of sepsis will now take less than an hour! Prof. Wen-hsin Hsieh from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at CCU has developed a rapid, sensitive, and low-cost double-sided grating waveguide biosensor in cooperation with the National Applied Research Laboratories and the Department of Critical Care Medicine at Taichung Veterans General Hospital. The biosensor is expected to be used to detect the concentration of inflammatory factors in patients with sepsis, as well as to assist doctors in providing treatment in a timely manner. At present, the CCU team has already developed a second generation prototype and has received three patents from local and foreign authorities. The biosensor can also be used in other biomedical and food testing applications.

     Sepsis is a disease caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other pathogens that results in systemic inflammation accompanied by organ failure. Therefore, it must be treated promptly. Prof. Hsieh mentioned that conventional tests for sepsis are time consuming, such that, in order to prevent the disease from progressing, a wide range of antibiotics are presently used in clinical treatment on a patient before their test results are returned. This, however, can easily result in the misuse of medicine and poor treatment effectiveness. Moreover, as tests for sepsis require a lot of time, doctors are only able to examine a patient’s physiological condition to serve as a reference for tracking treatment effectiveness. This extends the patient’s period of hospitalization and leads to a waste of medical resources.

     Prof. Hsieh, who has been researching biochips and biomedical engineering for some time, started to collaborate in 2017 with the National Applied Research Laboratories and the Department of Critical Care Medicine at Taichung Veterans General Hospital as part of the “Label-Free, Rapid, High-Sensitivity Optofluidic Biosensing System for Rapid and Simultaneous Identification of Pathogens and Host-Response in Septic Patients” research project. At present, the National Applied Research Laboratories are working to develop a system that identifies pathogenic bacteria and their drug susceptibility, so as to understand the different types of pathogenic bacteria and to accurately revise treatment methods. As for Prof. Hsieh, he is working to develop a double-sided grating waveguide biosensor for the rapid detection of the degree of inflammation as well as its causes among septic patients during the early stages of their hospitalization.

     Blood culture tests for pathogenic bacteria and their drug susceptibility require some time to produce results, as pathogenic bacteria can only be detected when their amount in the blood is sufficient. For this reason, the concentration of inflammatory factors has become another important indicator for the diagnosis of sepsis. According to Prof. Hsieh, “The advantages of detecting inflammatory factors are that no blood culture is required and the reaction to concentration is very fast; thus, this method is able to show a person’s real-time physical condition.” When inflammatory factors come in contact with the sensor’s chip, the optometric features of the chip’s surface will change, which allows it to measure the types and concentrations of different inflammatory factors.

     Prof. Hsieh pointed out that during the early stage of a patient’s hospitalization, introducing the patient’s blood sample to the sensor’s chip allows doctors to preliminarily classify the causes of sepsis within an hour based on different inflammatory factors, thereby providing a reference for doctors in administering antibiotics to patients. Doctors are also able to then obtain real-time treatment results through the sensor after patients have received treatment,

     The chip of the CCU’s double-sided grating waveguide biosensor can be customized for different analytes, which allows it to be extensively applied in biomedical sensing or food testing. If such chips are mass produced in the future, their cost will be less than US$1 per chip. Prof. Hsieh said that the system has a simple structure and is easy to operate, and compared to conventional high-precision detection tools used in hospitals or laboratories, the sensor is suitable for use in places that lack adequate medical resources. He hopes that the sensor can be used in small clinics and long-term care centers to serve as a front-end rapid screening system at the point of care.

     At present, the CCU team has already developed a second generation prototype. In addition to having received one patent from the US and two patents from Taiwan, they are currently applying for two more patents from the US. The CCU team is also working together with antibody manufacturers in Taiwan and will continue to increase the number of tests on clinical samples. Furthermore, the team aims to apply for medical regulation certifications, establish a company, and transfer their technologies to the industry within the next two years.