Scientists create nanosensor that could replace heart tests in the future

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Researchers at the University of California San Diego (USA) have developed a nanosensor capable of monitoring electrical signals traveling through heart tissue, so small that it can puncture the outer membrane of individual heart cells without harming them. The findings were published in the scientific journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Knowing how electrical signals travel through the heart is important in identifying certain complications, such as arrhythmia, heart attack, and cardiac fibrosis. So that they are not rejected by the body, these nanosensors are coated with organic molecules that prevent the immune system from identifying them as foreign bodies.

“Studying how an electrical signal propagates between different cells is important to understand the mechanism of cell function and disease. If the signal cannot propagate correctly from one part of the heart to another, it means that some heart region cannot receive this signal. , so it cannot contract,” says lead study author Yue Gu.

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“With this device, we can zoom to the cellular level and get a high resolution image of what is happening in the heart, we can see which cells are faulty, which parts are out of sync with each other and identify where the signal is weak. This information can be used to help inform clinicians and empower them to make better diagnoses.”

For now, the technology has been tested in cultures of heart muscle cells, but scientists are already working to implant the nanosensor in the heart of a real living animal and hope that one day they can use the device in humans. If one day this happens, the device could provide doctors and patients with information that, today, only tests such as Holter and echocardiography can provide.

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