News Release

UU Team Showcases Life-Saving Heart Attack Sensor Technology

20th February 2007

University of Ulster scientists are developing a next-generation diagnostic sensor which could revolutionise point-of-care diagnosis of people who have suffered a suspected heart attack.

The matchbox sized device is designed to analyse cardiac enzymes in the blood enabling doctors or paramedics to decide almost instantly which lifesaving treatment to adopt.

The UU team, led by Professor Jim McLaughlin, Director of the Nanotechnology & Advanced Materials Research Institute, is collaborating with scientists from Dublin City University on the project.

Professor McLaughlin said: “If you have a suspected heart attack medical staff will monitor your ECG, respiration rate, SP02 and eye dilation.

“But it is also vitally important that your blood is analysed as quickly as possible. Analysing cardiac enzymes in the blood will enable medical staff to determine the correct treatment. It will guide them on whether to administer clot-busting drugs, insert a stent or attempt defibrillation, for example.

“Our device is designed to take a few microlitres of blood – far smaller than the size of a full stop – and analyse it. The device, which is the size of a matchbox, could be easily carried in a medical bag and does not need electrical pumps and thus low power. It uses capillary action to draw the tiny sample of blood across the sensors in the device which measure how the characteristics of the blood differ – or not – from blood with raised cardiac enzyme levels.

“The device then produces a read-out which can be transmitted wirelessly for remote diagnostic interpretation by medical staff.”

He says the process takes just a couple of minutes – much faster than the half hour needed for a traditional laboratory analysis and it also cuts out the need to get blood to the laboratory.

The UU scientists are working with medical staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast on trials of the device. They are also collaborating with scientists at IIT Bombay in India on the use of carbon nanotubes to filter blood before it is passed over the sensors. Unfiltered blood is not suitable for analysis.

The UU team were today in Dublin for a two day workshop on sensor technology held under the auspices of the US-Ireland R&D Partnership, an initiative that aims to increase the level of collaborative research and development amongst researchers and industry in both parts of Ireland and the US.

Up to 12 US experts in the field will join scientists from both parts of Ireland to focus on the key themes of wireless sensor networks, environmental sensors, biomedical/bioanalytical sensors and point-of-care diagnostics.


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