Category Archives: Medical Technology

Nanotechnology to detect blood clots

Photo Credit: Christine Daniloff/MIT

Blood clots in the legs are commonly called the Economy Class Syndrome, whereas passengers in the coach class develop potentially life-threatening blood clots in their legs when they sit around not moving for a long time. The other group of people at risk are patients who just have surgery in the pelvis or legs, and cannot walk around.

Sometimes those blood clots break and travel to the lungs and block the big lung arteries, killing the patient.

Now, a group of researchers led of Sangeeta Bhatia, a doctor and a bioengineer, had found a way to detect these clots early, by using nanotechnology.

Blood clots are rich with thrombin. So iron oxide particles coated with special peptides are injected into mice. Should the particles encounter thrombin, the special peptides react with thrombin, releasing substances that can be detected in the urine. Iron oxide particles have already been approved for human use by the FDA.

At the moment, doctors have to look for late signs of blood clots in the leg which includes a swollen feet, and breathing difficulties (late stage). It is then confirmed by an ultrasound of the leg veins which is labor-intensive. This technology has the potential to greatly help us pick up the blood clots before they arise.

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The Artificial Pancreas – Hope for Type 1 Diabetes

The artificial pancreas has just been approved by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Patients with type 1 diabetes cannot make insulin because their pancreas has been damaged by their own immune system, and have to have external insulin supplied to them. An insulin pump can provide insulin constantly through a needle that is secured just under the skin and typically lasts for 3 days. The problem had always been that patients can get hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, especially during the night or during vigorous exercise.

Now the FDA had approved a new Medtronic pump that also has a sensor which can switch off the pump when the patient’s sugar drops too low. This pump now behaves like our real pancreas: provide insulin when the sugar is high, stopping insulin when sugar is low. However, it is not fully automated: unlike our body which knows how much carbohydrates we have taken, the pump user still needs to enter the amount manually into the machine.

Nonetheless this is a much safer machine than the old ones. Hopefully it will be brought to Singapore soon!