The Future is Here: Nanofibre Heart Patches

heart_patchesFor years, medical researchers have been trying to find a solution to the problem of post-cardiac event health. You see, when a heart attack occurs, the damaged tissue doesn’t grow back, but instead forms non-beating scar tissue. This in turn permanently weakens the heart, making another cardiac event that much more probable.

However, researchers at Tel Aviv University are getting promising results from a possible solution using patches that contain cardiac cells and gold nanofibers. As with other experimental heart patches, the idea behind these ones is that they could be surgically placed on damaged areas of the heart, where they would cause normal, beating heart tissue to grow back.

gold_nanoparticlesTo create them, a team led by Dr. Tal Dvir started by integrating nanofibers made of gold nanoparticles into a three-dimensional scaffolding made of biomaterials. That scaffolding was then “seeded” with heart muscle cells. The high conductivity of the gold allowed those cells to communicate with one another by sending electrical signals through the network of nanofibers.

When viewed with an electron microscope, the cells were observed to be contracting in unison, which is essential to the proper beating of the heart. By contrast, cells that were placed on scaffolding without the embedded gold nanofibers displayed much weaker contractions. In other experiments, gold nanofibers have proven useful to enhancing heart heath. But in this case, may prove useful to replacing damaged heart tissue.

heart_healthNaturally, more work is needed before this new heart patch can be made available to patients. This includes human trials, which Dr. Dvir and his colleagues are hoping to conduct soon. Similar research is also being conducted at MIT, where scientists have created electrically conductive tissue scaffolds that include cardiac cells and gold nanowires.

This research is not only a boon for cardiac health, but is also a major step forward in terms of cybernetics, biomimetics, and nanotechnology. By merging the organic and synthetic at the nano level, and in a way that merges with our bodies natural architecture, a new breed of medical solutions are being made available that could make “permanent conditions” a thing of the past.

Source: gizmag.com, aftau.org

The Future is Here: Blood Monitoring Implants!

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The realm of nanotechnology, which once seemed like the stuff of science fiction, is getting closer to realization with every passing year. And with all the innovations taking place in tiny-scale manufacturing, molecular research, and DNA structures, we could be looking at an age where tiny machines regulate our health, construct buildings, assemble atomic structures, and even contain enough hardware to run complex calculations.

One such innovation was announced back in March by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, where researchers created the world’s smallest medical implant capable of monitoring critical chemicals in the blood. Measuring a mere 14mm in length, the device is capable of measuring up to five indicators, like proteins, glucose, lactate, ATP, and then transmit this information to a smartphone via Bluetooth.

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In short, it is capable of providing valuable information that may help track and prevent heart attacks and monitor for indications of harmful conditions, like diabetes. Each sensor is coated with an enzyme that reacts with blood-borne chemicals to generate a detectable signal, and is paired with a wearable battery that provides the 100 milliwatts of power that the device requires by wireless inductive charging through the skin.

For patient monitoring, such a device has so many useful applications that it is likely to become indispensable, once introduced. In cancer treatment for example, numerous blood tests are often required to calibrate treatments according the to the patient’s particular ability to break down and excrete drugs. And since these parameters often change due the patient’s reaction to said treatments, anything that can provide up-to-the-minute monitoring will spare the patient countless invasive tests.

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In addition, in cases of heart attacks, the signs are visible in the hours before the event occurs. This occurs when fatigued or oxygen-starved muscle begins to break down, releasing fragments of the heart-specific smooth muscle protein known as troponin. If this protein can be detected before disruption of the heart rhythm begins, or the actual attack, lifesaving preemptive treatment can be initiated sooner.

At the moment, the sensors are limited by the number of sensors they hold. But there is no theoretical limit to how any sensors each implant can hold. In the future, such a device could be equipped with electronics that could monitor for strokes, blood clots, high cholesterol, cancer cells, HIV, parasites, viruses, and even the common cold (assuming such a thing continues to exist!) Just think about it.

You’re going about your daily activities when suddenly, you get a ringtone that alerts you that you’re about to experience a serious a health concern. Or maybe that the heavy lunch you just ate raised the level of LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream to an unwanted level. Tell me, on a scale of one to ten, how cool would that be?

Source: Extremetech.com