Biosensor could detect brain injury during heart surgery

A biosensor developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University could help detect brain injuries during heart surgery, the school announced this week. The fingernail-sized biosensor could help doctors come up with new ways to minimize brain damage, the team reports in the the journal Chemical Science. In tests, the prototype sensor successfully detected a protein associated with brain injuries.

"Ideally, the testing would happen while the surgery is going on, by placing just a drop of the patient's blood on the sensor, which could activate a sound, light or numeric display if the protein is present," study senior author Howard E. Katz said, according to the announcement. Katz, a materials science expert, used an organic thin film transistor design to make the sensor. Each side of the sensor has a layer of antibodies that attract the target protein associated with brain injuries.

Now, doctors often have to wait years after heart surgery to see if brain injury appears. But this sensor platform has the potential to be "instantaneous." Overall, using the sensor will lead to better long-term outcomes in heart patients, Katz predicted.

"This sensor proved to be extremely sensitive," he said. "It recognized [the protein] even when there were many other protein molecules nearby."

As reported in May, biosensor technology also has the potential to detect antibiotic resistance in bacteria, according to research from the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE).

"Antibiotic resistant bacteria is a serious problem," Vitaly Vodyanoy, M.D. said of the latter research. "It is very important [when treating a patient] to distinguish between normal and resistant bacteria; if you have a case of resistance you have to take special measures to cure it."

To learn more:
- read the announcement from Johns Hopkins University
- here's the Chemical Science abstract

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