The EXTHER project area focuses on the development and testing of innovative therapies, in particular those which aim to support the immune system. Novel treatment strategies are developed on the basis of classic extracorporeal technology platforms, such as dialysis and plasma separation. Special emphasis is placed on the development of extracorporeal blood treatment methods for sepsis therapy. Another approach is the development of extension systems for dialysis.
Development of the extracorporeal immune support system (EISS)
Over 18 million people around the world suffer from severe sepsis every year. In Germany alone, up to 60,000 people die from the disease every year. This is why, together with the company Artcline GmbH, the EXIM group has developed and evaluated a cell bioreactor system which can be used to treat sepsis using immune cells (granulocytes) taken from healthy donors. In doing so, the patient's plasma is circulated extracorporeally in a bioreactor with a granulocyte concentrate taken from a donor of a compatible blood group. During this process, bacterial toxins and other inflammatory substances are removed from the blood plasma by means of phagocytosis, allowing the purified patient plasma to be fed back into the patient's bloodstream. Initial clinical results show a clear improvement in patients' cellular immunocompetence, alongside the decrease in bacterial components. Further clinical trials with adjusted parameters are planned for the near future.
This project looks at optimizing the purification of granulocytes, which are required for the extracorporeal immune support system. A key goal here is to extend storage time under currently applicable transfusion medicine conditions. At present, granulocyte concentrates can only be stored for up to 24 hours at 20–24 °C. An increase in the durability of granulocyte concentrates would significantly increase the flexibility of the therapies to be conducted in an everyday clinical setting and also the logistics associated with donations. Furthermore, pure granulocyte concentrations cannot be manufactured at present as the preparation becomes contaminated by a certain amount of erythrocytes and thrombocytes during apheresis. This project therefore also aims to process human blood preparations in such a way that allows the purest granulocyte fraction possible to be obtained and, in turn, optimally used in a clinical and therapeutic context.