High-Tech Hearts

Technology plays a big role in treating heart diseases and heart conditions.

Now, two high-tech breakthroughs could soon become a regular part of keeping our tickers healthy.

One is a stent and the other is a thermometer.

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Electronic Stent Can Release Drugs, Provide Feedback

About a half million people in the United States have surgery every year to implant a stent to open a coronary artery that is narrowed by plaque. The mesh tubes involved in this procedure sometimes get clogged, leading to health risks. 

Researchers have created and tested on animals an electronic stent that releases drugs and can provide diagnostic feedback by measuring blood flow. Doctors can activate the device to speed up drug delivery. The stent can also dissolve when it’s no longer needed.

This new multitasking stent is detailed in a report in the journal American Chemical Society (ACS) Nano.

High-Tech Hearts

Dae-Hyeong Kim, Ph.D., one of the researchers from the School of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Seoul National University, explained that metal stents currently used can cause blood vessels to block after a certain amount of time.

The new stent includes electronic sensors, memories, and actuators to monitor blood flow. It can send signals wirelessly with real-time diagnostic data to computers, so doctors can monitor the efficacy of the stent.

“This bioresorbable electronic stent is a novel concept,” he said.

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Thermometer Acts as a Heart Attack Detector

The method used to diagnose a heart attack is straightforward. Typically, it involves measuring the level of the protein troponin in the individual’s blood. The levels rise when blood is cut off from the heart, as happens during a heart attack.

The challenge is that detecting this condition requires bulky, expensive instruments — something often missing in low- and middle-income countries as well as remote areas. Those regions are where about three-quarters of cardiovascular disease-related deaths happen.

A new report in Analytical Chemistry provides details about a new high-tech product that can make heart attack diagnosis more accessible.

The thermometer-like device creates a simple way to detect troponin. When mixed with nanoparticles and put into a special vial, an ink rises similar to the way a mercury thermometer does when it detects rising temperatures.

Using the device, a technician or doctor can see with a naked eye the level of the protein and determine if a heart attack has occurred.

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