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Researchers Build New Miniature Electric Sensor to Detect Heart Attack

(Credit: The University of Manchester)

Researchers at The University of Manchester led by Dr David J. Lewis in collaboration with other international scientists have created a miniature electric sensor, which has the potential to enhance survival rates of patients by informing doctors if a person has had a heart attack.

Cardiovascular diseases make up about 30% of adult deaths in the 30 − 70 year age bracket, which is more than the combined deaths caused due to various forms of cancer. The ability to diagnose cardiac disease is very important to doctors.

During a heart attack, certain chemicals are discharged into their bloodstream in high quantities, and so blood tests are the key to diagnosis.

Since 2014, Dr Lewis from Manchester’s School of Materials, has collaborated with his colleagues and a team at India’s Institute of Nano Science and Technology (INST) to build a nanoscale sensor using a new 2D material - ‘few-layer black phosphorus’, which was coated in DNA.

The immobilized DNA has the tendency to bind to a chemical known as myoglobin, which increases in blood plasma following a heart attack and can be detected and measured using a simple electrical test.

Since this is the most rapid, selective, sensitive and accurate technique available at the moment to detect if a person has elevated levels of myoglobin, it could have a key impact. Measuring myoglobin is one of the techniques used by hospitals to detect if a heart attack has occurred.

The researchers foresee that its launch into the clinic could improve the survival rates of patients after an attack.

This research is the first instance of 2D few-layer black phosphorus being applied as a biological sensing system. The test could ultimately be used at the bedside of the patient, without having to be sent to centralized labs where there may be delays in the diagnosis.

Since the DNA used is formed using chemical information imparted to it by the biological target, it is potentially a common system that could be used on other targets besides myoglobin.

I was really pleased to publish a paper that used all my skills and the areas of interest that I have developed so far in my career – nanoscience and materials science, and their biological applications. My Dad suffered a heart scare in late 2013 and has been rehabilitating since, and I have lost good friends to heart disease, so I know full well the devastation that it can bring to individuals and families. The fact that it could potentially have societal impact beyond academia and could potentially improve patient survival and quality of life beyond a heart attack is, for me, amazing.

Dr David J. Lewis, University of Manchester

Their research findings have been illustrated in detail in the American Chemical Society journal.

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