Smart stents can better prevent heart attacks

Scientists have created a 'smart stent' that can monitor even subtle changes in the flow of blood through the artery, and detect the narrowing in its earliest stages - potentially preventing heart attacks.

The device uses medical-grade stainless steel and looks similar to most commercial stents.

It is the first angioplasty-ready smart stent, researchers said. It can be implanted using current medical procedures without modifications.

"We modified a stent to function as a miniature antenna and added a special micro-sensor that we developed to continuously track blood flow. The data can then be sent wirelessly to an external reader, providing constantly updated information on the artery's condition," said Kenichi Takahata, from University of British Columbia (UBC), who led the study published in the journal Advanced Science.

For every three individuals who have had a stent implanted to keep clogged arteries open and prevent a heart attack, at least one will experience restenosis - the renewed narrowing of the artery due to plaque buildup or scarring - which can lead to additional complications.

"X-rays such as CT or diagnostic angiograms, which are the standard tools for diagnosis, can be impractical or inconvenient for the patient," said York Hsiang, a professor at UBC.

"Putting a smart stent in place of a standard one can enable physicians to monitor their patient's health more easily and offer treatment, if needed, in a timely manner," he added.

The device prototype was successfully tested in the lab and on a pig model.