This year’s BRIght Futures Prize finalists are pursuing forward-thinking and inventive research to improve patient care. Each of the three finalists hopes to receive the $100,000 BRIght Futures Prize, which will be awarded at Discover Brigham on Oct. 7. Read about their work below, and vote for your choice.
William Savage, MD, PhD, Department of Pathology
Thousands of patients with cancer, sickle cell disease or autoimmune disease, as well as organ transplant recipients require specialized blood treatments, called apheresis. During apheresis, blood is taken out of the body using large, specialized medical devices, and the part of the blood that is causing disease is selectively removed. The rest of the healthy blood is returned to the patient. The current process, which uses a large, complicated centrifuge-based machine, can require donor blood transfusions and a big catheter placed into a large vein near the patient’s heart. Our project will make apheresis easier for both patients and the people who operate the devices.
What is a compelling aspect of your research project?
In collaboration with engineers at the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, our team has invented a technology that uses ultrasound waves to separate blood into its components for apheresis. We call this “acoustic apheresis,” and it represents a completely new way to perform the procedure.
Also, we use materials that make the technology scalable for pediatric to adult-sized patients.
How will your research project benefit people?
First, our device is smaller, simpler, mounted on an IV pole, and will require less training to use and maintain, reducing health care costs.
Second, because it is a small device, acoustic apheresis reduces the need for large catheters and eliminates the need for donor blood to fill up the large volume of current devices, a huge improvement for people who may receive up to 100 treatments annually. Moreover, for critically ill patients, removing less blood means a safer procedure.
Third, because of its simplicity, our device can be used continuously for days, like an IV infusion. Many apheresis treatments for hospitalized patients are staggered three times a week because of the staffing complexity and large blood volumes involved. With a smaller, simpler device that can be operated continuously, patients won’t have to wait between treatments, and we can remove more disease-causing antibodies and blood cells than is currently feasible.
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