Every year, severe sepsis strikes more than a million Americans, and as many as 50 percent of these people die. The deadly infection often happens too fast for antibiotics to help. Now, a new device inspired by the human spleen could transform the way doctors treat sepsis and many other diseases.

Appendicitis, urinary tract infections, skin infections, pneumonia and a kidney infection, all can trigger sepsis. Sepsis is a life-threatening inflammatory response to an infection that kills someone every two minutes in the U.S.

Dr. Donald Ingber, founding director at Wyss Institute in Boston, Massachusetts told Ivanhoe, “You’d like to get it out of the blood as quickly as possible so you could stop this cascade that leads to organ failure and death.”

That’s why Ingber and a team at Wyss Institute at Harvard have developed a new device known as the biospleen.

“The idea was it would be much like a dialysis type of machine, where blood would go out one vein, go through this blood cleansing device and then the cleansed blood would go back to the patient,” Ingber explained.

The device works by mixing the blood with magnetic nanoparticles coated with proteins, pulling dangerous toxins out of the blood.

“The secret sauce is the proteins,” said Michael Super, Ph.D., Senior Staff Scientist at Wyss Institute. “These proteins are very ancient proteins; they are about 500 million years old.”

In a lab test using human blood spiked with pathogens, more than 90 percent were removed, paving the way for the future.

“The literature suggests it could work with Ebola, aids, and influenza,” Ingber said. “It really could be used in many different applications.”

The device was also used on infected rats with a 90 percent success rate. Other future uses for the device could be removing cancer cells from the blood or using it as a diagnostic tool.