New York / Heidelberg, 7 March 2011 A new study published in the Annals of Biomedical Engineering shows that a MEMS thermal sensor deployed by an angiogram catheter can detect the earliest stages of atherosclerosis. The MEMS thermal sensor used convective heat transfer to detect pre-atherosclerotic regions of arteries that otherwise showed no clinical signs of atherosclerosis.
Although diet and lifestyle changes can often reverse atherosclerosis in its earliest stages, no real-time means of detecting pre-atherosclerotic regions exists. The MEMS sensor method has the advantage of being both minimally invasive and sensitive. The technology has the potential for widespread and rapid application during diagnostic angiograms.
The study's lead author, Dr. Tzung Hsiai, an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Cardiology at the University of Southern California, said, "The innovation of this study lies in the convective heat transfer strategy to detect changes in output voltage signals in the non-obstructive, albeit inflammatory and otherwise considered normal arterial regions."
Scientists have demonstrated that frictional force acting on the walls of vessels by blood flow, known as shear stress, is intimately involved in oxidative stress and inflammatory responses that lead to atherosclerosis. In athero-prone regions, the flow is disturbed, yet detection of changing flow patterns in real-time remains a challenge.
Dr. Hsiai's group developed a micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) by depositing titanium and platinum on a flexible polymer membrane and patterning them to form the sensing elements. They deployed the sensor via an angiogram catheter into the aortic and abdominal arteries of rabbits that had eaten a high fat, high cholesterol diet, and a control group that had eaten a normal diet.
An electric current passed through the sensing element and generated a thermal layer in the flow field, from w
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