Mcgill University Scientists Develop Novel Investigation Technique to Monitor Electrical Signals of the Heart

There are at least 158,000 deaths per annum from atrial fibrillation alone. This figure underscores the need to beef up our cardiovascular medicineinvestigations, and treatment. Our cardiovascular medicine needs discovery on new ways to gain insights into pathologies of the heart. Finally, engineers from the University of California San Diego developed a machine that could take cardiovascular medicine to the next level. A machine that can measure the speed and direction of electrical impulse with the use of a ‘pop-up sensor’ which can prod into the heart without causing any structural damage.

Heart Monitor

Heart Monitor

Read Also: Mcgill University Scientists Developed a Hydrogel That Can Repair Damaged Hearts and Vocal Cords

Field-effect transistors device

Essentially, the novel machine comprises needle tipped microscopic 3D array of field-effect transistors [FET]. The FETs can monitor electrical impulses in multiple cells or multiple areas in the same cell, at the same time. The FETs are coated in phospholipid bilayer to avoid being tagged as ‘foreign’ by the body. Then FETs penetrate the cell membranes without causing structural damages, the FETs detect electrical signals irrespective of the magnitude.

The device started as a 2D model, the team changed the configuration from 2D to 3D via pre-stretched elastomer. After a series of manipulating, the FETs folded into a 3D

Next, the researchers tested the FETs in cardiac tissues cultures. The speed of conduction through the cells and between two cells tell if the heart cells are healthy or diseased. That discovery alone can inform the clinician on the best clinical approach to take to treat different heart diseases.

The team has proposed to use this device to study conduction in nerves. In other words, sooner than later, we may be able to have a deeper look into neurologic illnesses that science had declared a dead end, and perhaps proffer solutions.

Read Also: A Drug That Could Prevent Heart Attacks Without the Risk of Bleeding May Soon Be a Reality

Clinical Significance

This novel machine is particularly important to understudy numerous disease entities that disrupt the normal cardiac electrical activity. For diseases like heart attack, cardiac fibrosis, arrhythmia, etc the insights we gain from the machine could be a major step in obtaining a lasting solution to these heart pathologies.

In addition, the FETs can also monitor the effects of drugs on the heart and perhaps in the future the effect of drugs on nerves.

A professor of nanoengineering at the University of California San Diego had this to say about this novel machine: “With this device, we can zoom in to the cellular level and get a very high-resolution picture of what’s going on in the heart; we can see which cells are malfunctioning, which parts are not synchronized with the others, and pinpoint where the signal is weak… and enable them [clinicians] to make better diagnoses.”

Read Also: Cardiovascular Health: Not All Chest Pains Mean That the Heart Is in Distress

Final thoughts

The FETs are indeed the next step in the evolution of cardiovascular medicine. The FETs are still in their experimental phases but have shown promises not only in cardiovascular medicine but also in nerve conduction studies.

It goes without saying that the insights we can obtain from these can open new doors in the treatment of diseases that were considered untreatable.


Three-dimensional transistor arrays for intra- and inter-cellular recording





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