Eindhoven University of Technology: Better detection method for sepsis thanks to student competition SensUs

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Students from TU Eindhoven are organizing the international student competition SensUs for the seventh time on September 2. Each year teams around the world compete to develop a new biosensor. This year, fifteen student teams from all over the world will present their detection method for the life-threatening disease sepsis. This year the finals will take place at TU/e Eindhoven again, after online meetings in recent years due to Covid restrictions.

Sepsis is an acute inflammation that can occur all over the body as a complication of an infection, whether bacterial, viral or due to a fungus or parasite. It is a life-threatening complication that causes millions of people to end up in intensive care, with 30 to 40 percent of patients dying. The most common symptoms are increased heart rate, accelerated breathing, fever and extreme pain. Worldwide, more than 49 million people suffer from sepsis each year.

Push development
The organization hopes to push the development of these biosensors through the SensUs Competition. The goal of the competition is to encourage the development of rapid and advanced testing methods. Each year, SensUs chooses a disease or disorder that will be the focus of the competition that year. So this year it is the condition sepsis.

Early diagnosis is essential in sepsis. Every hour the chance of dying increases by ten percent if action is not taken immediately. That is why this year the participants in the competition are developing sensors for practical use in healthcare to quickly measure whether a patient has sepsis.

The competition participants are focusing in particular on detection of the molecule IL-6, which is released in the inflammatory process. This is a signaling substance of the immune system that is present in the body in high concentrations in the case of sepsis. It could be very helpful to be able to measure the concentration of this substance with a rapid sensor, so that sepsis can be diagnosed before dangerous symptoms appear.

Improving health care
One of the participants is student team T.E.S.T. from TU Eindhoven itself. The team, founded almost a year ago, consists of nine bachelor students from the Biomedical Engineering program. “We would like to improve healthcare,” said Lars Daenen, PR manager of T.E.S.T. “Sepsis is common and there is a need to detect sepsis quickly. That makes this competition important.”

Daenen expects T.E.S.T to be able to score high. “Besides developing the biosensor itself, developing a business plan and the impact of the biosensor are also important criteria during the competition. Therefore, we have spoken with several general practitioners and medical professionals about the need for a biosensor and how best to use it. We look forward to the competition with confidence.”

Unknown disease
This year the focus of the SensUs Competition is on sepsis and measuring IL-6 in blood, but why is this so important? “That has to do with the fact that sepsis causes more deaths worldwide than HIV/AIDS, prostate and breast cancer combined, while almost 90% of people have never heard of this disease. This is one of the reasons why we want to help fight sepsis,” explains co-organizer Esmee Huijsmans.

The fifteen participating teams come from different continents and are judged by a 28-strong jury, which looks at things like creativity, quality and market potential. The public can also cast their votes. Everyone is welcome to attend the event on September 2 at Atlas on campus.

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