Notre Dame professors help develop sensor to quickly diagnose heart attacks // The Observer

Tests to diagnose heart attacks currently take hours to return, forcing patients with symptoms of a heart attack to wait for test results before they can receive proper treatment. A group of researchers from Notre Dame and the University of Florida working to address this problem have produced a device that can diagnose heart attacks in minutes.

The device the researchers produced is a sensor that helps differentiate a heart attack from a reperfusion injury for patients who have already been admitted to hospital. Reperfusion injury occurs when tissue is damaged during restoration of blood flow to an organ or tissue following a heart attack or stroke.

The new device uses microRNA technology, also known as miRNA, rather than protein-based biomarkers, for diagnosis. It can detect three distinct microRNAs that are found in blood plasma.

Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Pinar Zorlutuna helped lead the development of the sensor. She said microRNAs help differentiate between different phases of heart disease because they are developed by cells at distinct stages in the progression of the disease.

Normally, microRNAs are detected using PCR technology. The group’s sensor avoids this step, Zorlutuna said.

“PCR is not a rapid test, whereas a patient with a heart attack should be diagnosed as quickly as possible,” Zorlutuna said.

Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Hsueh-Chia Chang also helped lead the project. He said it’s very common for patients recovering from heart surgery to die from a reperfusion injury, which the device can detect quickly.

“So speed is the essence because you have someone who is either… right on the operating table or recovering from an operation and you want to know if it’s another heart attack.” Chang said.

When using PCR technology, it is difficult and time consuming to extract molecules from the blood of patients, send them to a lab and wait for them to be identified, Chang said.

Satyajyoti Senapati, associate research professor in chemical and biomolecular engineering, also participated in the research. He said that one of the main advantages of this new technology is that it is inexpensive.

“This whole chip can be mass produced at a very low cost simply by injection molding or 3D printing process,” Senapati said.

Zorlutuna said the sensor is designed for use in both hospital emergency rooms and at home for patients with heart problems.

Because the device is economical and portable, the researchers hope it can be used in developing countries.

The team is in the process of filing a patent application for the sensor. Chang said it would likely take around 5 years to get FDA approval and put the device into service.

“There has to be a major clinical trial,” Chang said. “So at this point I think a business will have to work with it because you have to have companies that will make the devices.”

Zorlutuna cited various benefits of this new device, including improved patient diagnostics, reduced emergency room admission costs, and better patient outcomes.

“It can improve patient outcomes because it can detect heart attack faster and more accurately than current methods, and it can also potentially distinguish between different stages of heart attack,” Zorlutuna said.

Tags: biomolecular engineering, device, heart attack, research, sensor

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