University of Southern California researchers are using a MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) device to distinguish between stable and unstable atherosclerotic plaques in coronary arteries. If this technology survives clinical trials, we might see in the future a new generation of angio catheters, preloaded with MEMS devices, that will help us to distinguish between stable patients and those that are prone to develop coronary thrombosis and myocardial infarction. The same system could also be used for diagnosis and treatment of peripheral vascular atherosclerotic disease.
The MEMS system uses minute heat perturbations as a proxy for blood flow and detects changes in bulk resistance for plaque characteristics.
The lab has demonstrated that this sensor can make the distinction between stable and unstable plaque in laboratory examinations of specimens of plaque clogged arteries extracted from rabbits fed a special plaque-producing diet.
Another configuration of the same sensors can measure the forces on the artery walls produced by blood flows, identifying spots where back currents may be promoting plaque formation.
The next step will be to embed the MEMS sensors into angiogram catheters, and show that they can accurately make the same distinctions, first in animals, then in human subjects.
USC press release: Stable Plaque or Heart Attack Plaque? BME Researcher Builds New Sensor to Tell Which is Which…