Field-hospital-on-a-chip project awarded to nanoengineer from UC San Diego

Oct 23, 2008
NanoEngineering professor Joseph Wang from UC San Diego's Jacobs School of Engineering holds up an example of a flexible electrode, one of the components of his hospital-on-a-chip project. Credit: UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering

With a $1.6M grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR), UC San Diego NanoEngineering professor Joseph Wang will lead a project to create a "field hospital on a chip" that soldiers can wear on the battlefield.

The automated sense-and-treat system will continuously monitor a soldier's sweat, tears or blood for biomarkers that signal common battlefield injuries such as trauma, shock, brain injury or fatigue. Once the system detects a battlefield injury, it will automatically administer the proper medication, thus beginning the treatment well before the soldier has reached a field hospital.

"Since the majority of battlefield deaths occur within the first 30 minutes after injury, rapid diagnosis and treatment are crucial for enhancing the survival rate of injured soldiers," said Joseph Wang, a NanoEngineering professor at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego and the Primary Investigator on the project.

To realize their "field hospital on a chip" idea, the engineers will need to build a minimally invasive system that monitors multiple biomarkers simultaneously and uses the system's "smarts" to process all this biomarker information and tease out accurate, automated diagnoses. These diagnoses would immediately trigger drug delivery or other medical intervention.

"Today's insulin and glucose management systems for patients with diabetes don't include smart sensors capable of performing complex logic operations," said Wang, who helped to develop the first noninvasive system for monitoring glucose from a patient's sweat. "We are working on a system that will be different. It will monitor biomarkers and make decisions about the type of injury a person has sustained and then begin treating that person accordingly," said Wang.

The automated sense-and-treat system being developed by UC San Diego NanoEngineering professor Joseph Wang and colleagues will continuously monitor a soldier’s sweat, tears or blood for biomarkers that signal common battlefield injuries such as trauma, shock, brain injury or fatigue. Once the system detects a battlefield injury, it will automatically administer the proper medication, thus beginning the treatment well before the soldier has reached a field hospital. Credit: UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering

"Developing an effective interface between complex physiological processes and implantable devices could have a broader biomedical impact, providing autonomous, individual, 'on-demand' medical care, which is the goal of the new field of personalized medicine," said Wang.

To reach this level of automated diagnostic dexterity, the researchers plan to build upon "enzyme logic" breakthroughs recently demonstrated by Evgeny Katz, a Co-PI on the grant and the Milton Kerker Chaired professor of Chemistry and Biomolecular Science at Clarkson University.

Katz and colleagues demonstrated recently that enzymes can not only measure biomarkers, but also provide the logic necessary to make a limited set of diagnoses based on multiple biological variables.

One of the many challenges now facing Wang and his team, however, is to get the enzyme logic system to reliably work on sensing electrodes that humans can wear. Thus far, enzyme logic operations have only been demonstrated in solution.

From Biomarkers to 1s and 0s and Treatment

Lactate, oxygen, norepinephrine and glucose are examples as the kinds of injury biomarkers that will serve as biological input signals for their prototype logic system. Electrodes containing a combination of enzymes will serve as sensors and provide the logic necessary to convert the biomarkers to products which may then be picked up by another enzyme on the electrode for further logic operations. The electrodes will also act as transducers that produce strings of 1s and 0s that will activate smart materials that release medication based on predetermined treatment plans.

"We just want the ones and zeros. The pattern of ones and zeros will reveal the type of injury and automatically trigger the proper treatment," said Wang.

For example, if an injured soldier were to enter a state of shock, enzymes on the electrode would sense rising levels of the biomarkers lactate, glucose and norepinephrine. In turn, the concentrations of products generated by the enzymes would change—higher hydrogen peroxide, lower norepi-quinone, higher NADH and lower NAD+. This will cause the built-in logic structure to output the signal "1,0,1,0" which points to shock and will trigger a pre-determined treatment response.

"This is biocomputing in action," said Wang.

"We are just at the beginning of this project. During the first two years, our primary focus will be on the sensor systems. Integrating enzyme logic onto electrodes that can read biomarker inputs from the body will be one of our first major challenges," said Wang.

At the end of the four-year project, the researchers expect to have a working prototype that can detect different combinations of injury biomarkers thanks to the enzyme logic. At the same time, the researchers will also be working on signal-responsive membranes that can release drugs, as well as the electrical or optoelectronic systems that allow the sensors to communicate with the drug delivery system.

"We really hope that our enzyme-logic sense-and-treat system will revolutionize the monitoring and treatment of injured soldiers and lead to dramatic improvements in their survival rate," said Wang.

Source: University of California - San Diego

Explore further: Introducing the multi-tasking nanoparticle

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers discover new strategy germs use to invade cells

5 minutes ago

The hospital germ Pseudomonas aeruginosa wraps itself into the membrane of human cells: A team led by Dr. Thorsten Eierhoff and Junior Professor Dr. Winfried Römer from the Institute of Biology II, members of the Cluster ...

Vibrational motion of a single molecule measured in real time

15 minutes ago

For the first time, chemists have succeeded in measuring vibrational motion of a single molecule with a femtosecond time resolution. The study reveals how vibration of a single molecule differs from the behaviour of larger ...

For top broadband policy, look no further than Canada

15 minutes ago

You might have seen communications minister Malcolm Turnbull raising the issue about Australian press not discussing policy problems and solutions from overseas, in a speech delivered at the Lowy Institute Media Awards last week: ...

Progress in the fight against harmful fungi

25 minutes ago

A group of researchers at the Max F. Perutz Laboratories has created one of the three world's largest gene libraries for the Candida glabrata yeast, which is harmful to humans. Molecular analysis of the Candida ...

Electronic 'noses' to detect chemical warfare gases

35 minutes ago

Researchers of the Universitat Politècnica de València have developed a prototype of electronic "nose" for the detection of chemical warfare gases, fundamentally nerve gases (Sarin, Soman and Tabun). 

Recommended for you

Introducing the multi-tasking nanoparticle

15 hours ago

Kit Lam and colleagues from UC Davis and other institutions have created dynamic nanoparticles (NPs) that could provide an arsenal of applications to diagnose and treat cancer. Built on an easy-to-make polymer, these particles ...

Tissue regeneration using anti-inflammatory nanomolecules

Aug 22, 2014

Anyone who has suffered an injury can probably remember the after-effects, including pain, swelling or redness. These are signs that the body is fighting back against the injury. When tissue in the body is damaged, biological ...

Cut flowers last longer with silver nanotechnology

Aug 21, 2014

Once cut and dunked in a vase of water, flowers are susceptible to bacterial growth that shortens the length of time one has to enjoy the blooms. A few silver nanoparticles sprinkled into the water, might be the answer to ...

Relaxing DNA strands by using nano-channels

Aug 20, 2014

A simple and effective way of unravelling the often tangled mass of DNA is to 'thread' the strand into a nano-channel. A study carried out with the participation of the International School for Advanced Studies ...

User comments : 0