A team of researchers from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Sao Paulo Medical Center have successfully demonstrated usage of ultrasound-activated microbubbles to preserve heart muscle tissue post-heart attack in pig models. This research is now in Phase 1 of human clinical trials, and is targeted at patients who do not immediately receive medical attention after a heart attack due to transport time. This treatment opens up blocked arteries caused by the heart attack and could drastically reduce the damage done when heart tissue begins to die from oxygen starvation.
How does this work? Microbubbles are liquid or gas-filled bubbles on the micrometer scale, used in many ultrasound imaging applications. They are non toxic and injected into the bloodstream right before imaging. They are special because when hit by a sound wave (sent by the ultrasound probe) at a certain frequency, they oscillate energetically, giving off their own waves. In this case the energetic movements of the microbubbles cumulatively act to break down blood clots, allowing blood flow to resume to blocked cardiac tissue!
Because the activation of the microbubbles is done with a regular diagnostic ultrasound machine, this treatment is noninvasive (aside from the microbubble needle injection) and could be easily adopted by clinicians. The ultrasound technology necessary for this proposed treatment is already accessible, and by further demonstrating proof of concept in pigs, these findings are very promising. Ultimately future clinicians could use (already existing) portable ultrasound devices to administer the therapy to patients during the ambulance ride to the hospital, thus helping to keep more heart tissue alive after a heart attack.
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