UI engineers developing technology to help save lives

URBANA, Ill. - URBANA -- Students at the University of Illinois won second place in a competition that could save thousands of lives. They're designing a way to detect Sepsis, a disease that kills about 250,000 people every year in the U.S.

If you haven't heard of Sepsis, you're not alone. That's an issue in itself and some University of Illinois students are trying to fix it.

"It actually kills more Americans than HIV, breast cancer and prostate cancer combined every year in the United States," said Mike Rappleye, who is a senior.

Sepsis is a disease you can get when there's a complication with an infection.

"When you look at the costs for medical system and the consequence is human life," said Sam Wachspress, who is a recent graduate. "It's hugely significant."

Even lawmakers have been talking about it, with the governor signing Gabby's Law last week. That's meant to encourage hospitals to keep an eye out for early signs. Since it has such a huge impact, and there's no official medical test, students at the University of Illinois started working on one. The process just needs one drop of blood to test someone's immune system. 

"What we're looking for is to identify patients before they enter that inflammatory cycle so they can get the proper treatment," said Rappleye.

"It's very much an interdisciplinary project," said Wachspress. "We've got electrical engineering involved, polymer chemistry, biochemistry, lots of different sciences are required in order to solve this problem."

After more than a year of work, they entered their research into the VENTUREWELL competition. Second place means they get $15,000 to keep working on a solution.

Those students work in a lab at Carle Hospital. They hope to publish their findings soon and keep fine-tuning the test they've developed.


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