Cardiac surgeries can lead to undetected neurological injuries whose symptoms often show up years later, at which point they’re hard to correlate with the surgery or do anything about them. Knowing in real time that something is wrong might help surgeons take safety measures during surgery, helping avoid further brain damage.
Turns out that brain injuries are linked to the production of glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), a biomarker that researchers at Johns Hopkins decided to build a detector for. The new detector is about the size of a quarter dollar and the researchers claim it is the most sensitive organic thin film transistor (OTFT) protein detector ever built. Having the ability to screen for GFAP, clinicial researchers will now be able to develop new therapies and approaches that will help prevent and address intra-surgical strokes and other brain insults stemming from cardiac procedures. Moreover, this sensor might find itself on the sidelines of sports fields where it may be used as a way to spot concussions that would otherwise go unnoticed.
From Johns Hopkins:
To create this sensor, materials scientist [Howard E. Katz, a Whiting School of Engineering professor] turned to an organic thin film transistor design. In recent years sensors built on such platforms have shown that they can detect gases and chemicals associated with explosives. These transistors were an attractive choice for Everett’s request because of their potential low cost, low power consumption, biocompatibility and their ability to detect a variety of biomolecules in real time. Futhermore, the architecture of these transistors could accommodate a wide variety of other useful electronic materials.
The sensing area is a small square, 3/8ths-of-an-inch on each side. On the surface of the sensor is a layer of antibodies that attract GFAP, the target protein. When this occurs, it changes the physics of other material layers within the sensor, altering the amount of electrical current that is passing through the device. These electrical changes can be monitored, enabling the user to know when GFAP is present.
JHU press release: Biosensor Could Help Detect Brain Injuries During Heart Surgery…