Researchers at Oregon State University School of Engineering have developed a microfluidic photoreactor designed to treat severe cases of neonatal jaundice. Jaundice is caused by an excess of a pigment called bilirubin, which can be difficult to excrete due to underlying conditions in many newborns. In severe cases, newborns may need multiple blood transfusions, which require resources and labor, and can be risky. This system could help prevent these procedures and involves passing the newborn’s blood through a microfluidic device, where an LED helps break down bilirubin into excretory substances more easily.
Neonatal jaundice is relatively common, and most babies will be fine with little or no treatment. However, in severe cases, the disease can cause neurological damage and even death. In such severe cases, doctors will treat the disease by replacing the newborn’s blood with the donor’s blood. However, the transfusion procedure needs to be performed twice, which is time consuming and a bit risky.
In an effort to develop a safer and more comfortable alternative, these researchers have designed a device that can break down bilirubin, the blood pigment responsible for jaundice. The technique involves passing the patient’s blood through a microfluidic device that contains a high-intensity LED, which causes the bilirubin to break down into more excretable components.
The technique is similar to another method used to treat jaundice called whole-body phototherapy, where light is applied to the skin. However, as new technology directly illuminates the blood itself, it is more specific and efficient. To date, researchers have tested the bilirubin-rich human blood photoreactor in the laboratory bench and in a rat model.
“The results show that high-intensity light at a wavelength of 470 nanometers can be used to rapidly reduce bilirubin levels without causing appreciable damage to blood cell DNA,” said Adam Higgins. , researcher involved in the study, in a press. release. “Our work with Gunn rats showed that photoreactor treatment for four hours significantly reduced bilirubin levels, similar to the type of bilirubin reduction observed in exchange transfusion and on a similar time scale. The mathematical model we have developed suggests that this new approach to laboratory-based treatment will work better than clinical-scale exchange transfusion and does not require donor blood. “
Researchers plan to expand the photoreactor so that it can be used with human patients. “But overall, it seems that further development of photoreactor technology could potentially bring a promising new approach to treating extremely high levels of bilirubin in the blood of newborns,” Higgins said.
Study a Biomicrofluidics: Microfluidic photoreactor to treat neonatal jaundice