Novel sensor can detect a heart attack in just minutes

Images shows test tube containing blood sample to be analyzed for signs of a heart attack.

Researchers developed a novel sensor that can help diagnose a heart attack in less than 30 minutes, much faster than current tools used for that purpose. The sensor could lead to a portable, low-cost device that can improve how heart attacks are detected in clinical settings and in developing countries, they say. 

Current devices used by health care professionals take hours to diagnose a heart attack. Although an echocardiogram can show indications of heart disease, the official confirmation of a heart attack requires a blood test. That test can take up to eight hours to yield results.  

Traditional diagnostic devices used to detect a heart attack target certain proteins in the blood. The new sensor targets three distinct types of microRNA, or miRNA, a group of molecules that regulate gene expression. It can accurately distinguish between an acute heart attack and tissue damage from a recent reperfusion — the restoration of blood flow. The ability to differentiate between someone with an inadequate blood supply to an organ and someone with a reperfusion injury is an unmet clinical need that the sensor can address, the researchers say. The sensor also requires less blood than a traditional test. 

 The researchers have applied for a patent for the sensor and are working to establish a startup company to manufacture a lab-on-a-chip device. Their study, partly funded by the NHLBI, appears in the journal Lab on a Chip.

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