Research highlight

Biomedical engineering: Tiny device goes with the (blood) flow

Nature Communications

December 23, 2020

A device that can access blood capillaries with diameters less than 100 microns in size, is reported in Nature Communications. The design of the device increases the possibility of entering previously difficult-to-reach blood vessels in the circulatory system, and may present new therapeutic options in structures such as the brain stem that could aid the treatment of certain neurological disorders.

Conventional catheters have provided access to a vast range of tissues for the purposes of diagnostics as well as medical treatments. However, certain regions inside the body, such as in the vascular system of the brain, remain inaccessible.

Mahmut Selman Sakar and colleagues designed flexible micron-scale probe heads that can be transported through the vascular network, driven by the circulation of the blood. The probe heads are attached to an ultra-flexible guiding wire, which allows them to pass through convoluted blood vessels. The probe heads are magnetic and changes in directions are controlled by means of external magnets. The authors demonstrated the feasibility of their system in a series of laboratory experiments and in tests inside the vasculature of a rabbit ear.

The ability to reach blood vessels that are currently too small to be catheterized may open new therapeutic options to treat deep-seated or very peripheral tumours inside the brain, the authors conclude.

doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-20195-z

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