Tiny magnetic beads a new treatment to unblock arteries


ISLAMABAD, Jul 28: Tiny magnetic beads that move through the blood and ‘drill’ through blocked arteries could be a new treatment for heart disease.
Arteries become clogged when cholesterol, calcium and other substances accumulate on their inner walls – a process called atherosclerosis. As they narrow, the flow of oxygen-rich blood is reduced, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Current treatments include performing an angioplasty – where a balloon is inflated to open up a narrowed or blocked artery. If this doesn’t work it is followed by implanting a metal mesh tube (a stent) to keep the artery open.
Arteries become clogged when cholesterol, calcium and other substances accumulate on their inner walls
However, sometimes scar tissue builds up as a result of these treatments and the artery narrows again.
Newer stents that release medicine – known as drug-eluting stents – can stop this scarring. The advantage of using the new magnetic beads is that they appear to be harmless to the body and are unlikely to cause the same scarring reaction. Similar particles are already routinely used in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans to help with imaging.
The metal balls, each one smaller than a speck of dust, are formed into a chain three to four beads long, and held together with a chemical bond.
The beads are made from iron oxide and are inserted into the femoral artery in the groin on the end of a long tube, a catheter, which is fed up through the body to the blockage.
The beads are then exposed to a magnetic field generated by a machine that is similar to MRI scanners (widely used to detect diseases such as cancer), only smaller. Once released through the catheter, the magnetic force makes the beads rotate like a corkscrew, and propels them through the bloodstream towards the blockage.
As they come into contact with the blockage, the beads continue turning with force, drilling a hole straight through it, which means blood can flow again.
It may in the future have a role, but we will likely always need devices such as stents
The beads come in different sizes and their rotation can be reversed so they can go back and forth through the blockage until it’s totally cleared and normal blood flow is restored. As a result, the risk of a heart attack or stroke is immediately reduced, too.
The unblocked deposits and the beads are then flushed through the kidneys as waste and excreted in the urine. The entire procedure lasts roughly an hour, similar to existing treatments.
Meanwhile, the U.S. medicines watchdog the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has strengthened its warning that certain painkillers can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.


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