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'Pop-Up' Electronic Sensors Could Detect When Heart Cells Misbehave

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SEM image of 'pop-up' sensors

SEM image of "pop-up" sensors that measure speed and movement of electrical signals inside heart cells.

Credit: Yue Gu

Engineers at the University of California San Diego have developed a tool that monitors the electrical activity inside heart cells using tiny "pop-up" sensors that poke into the cells without damaging them. The device directly measures the movement and speed of electrical signals traveling within a single heart cell as well as between multiple heart cells.

The device could enable scientists to gain more detailed insights into heart disorders and diseases such as arrhythmia, heart attack, and cardiac fibrosis. "This information could be used to help inform clinicians and enable them to make better diagnoses," says senior author Sheng Xu, a professor of nanoengineering at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

The work is described in "Three-Dimensional Transistor Arrays for Intra- and Inter-Cellular Recording," published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

The device consists of a 3D array of microscopic field effect transistors that are shaped like sharp pointed tips. The tiny FETs pierce through cell membranes without damaging them and are sensitive enough to detect electrical signals directly inside the cells. The FETs are coated in a phospholipid bilayer to evade being seen as a foreign substance.

From University of California San Diego
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