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A New Blood Flow Sensor

Life Sciences and engineering professors team up to develop life-saving devices to detect stroke and heart problems.
Research  |  Apr 16, 2014  |  By Shane Bevell

UNLV professor Frank van Breukelen is collaborating with electrical engineering professor BJ Das on a new blood flow sensor. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Photo Services)

School of Life Sciences professor Frank van Breukelen is collaborating with electrical engineering professor BJ Das on a new blood flow sensor -- an inexpensive technology that has implications for the detection of stroke and heart disease.

Heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in America. Stroke alone afflicts nearly 800,000 Americans per year, resulting in approximately 145,000 deaths. The annual cost of treating strokes is approximately $40.9 billion. Despite this tremendous human and financial cost, researchers have not been able to develop a definitive therapy for the treatment of strokes.

Impaired blood flow is a factor in the majority of strokes, van Breukelen explained, adding that the limitations of current blood flow sensors have hampered therapeutic developments.

Part of the problem is that current blood flow sensors rely on power-consuming systems, thus hindering wireless telemeter use. Das and van Breukelen are developing a sensor to measure blood flow rates that does not require electricity.

This sensor will be readily adaptable to wireless telemetric solutions. It also will allow long-term measurement of blood flow when testing with social animals, such as rats. Previous methods required that the animals be physically restrained, given anesthesia, or in some other way have their mobility limited during testing, which affected the results.

The researchers are using the Research Fund for Innovation and Development (RFID) money to develop a prototype Bluetooth-enabled blood flow sensor. No similar digital telemeters are yet on the market. The RFID funds helped pay for undergraduate researchers to build and test the Bluetooth telemeter system.