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Mini bioreactor makes life-saving drugs in the field

You wouldn't need to wait for the hospital to get vital medicine.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
December 30, 2015
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Paramedics and field medics can patch up some wounds on the spot, but they're usually stuck if they have to administer specialized drugs. What if you need medicine that health care workers don't have on hand? You might not have to rush back to the hospital in the future. Researchers have created tiny, microfluidic bioreactors that generate the proteins you need for medicine. At its heart are two very long (16 feet) channels wound into an extremely tight pattern, and divided by a customized, porous membrane -- one channel feeds chemicals, while the other hosts the reactions that produce your drug. You only have to shake the device to send protein from one side to the other and get the medicine you need.

Besides its size, the beauty of the system is that it's cell-free, unlike conventional methods. You wouldn't need an expensive setup to maintain living organisms, which could keep the cost down. As such, medical teams could eventually carry cheap mini reactors with them and craft drugs on the spot. That would be most helpful in emergencies, such as when you need to treat life-threatening bites and infections, but it could also come in handy for remote doctors that otherwise need special shipments to treat rare illnesses.

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