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Making a Mark on Cardiovascular Disease Detection

Pitt Bioengineer Moni Datta receives a $300K DoD award to design biochemical marker technology that makes diagnostics quicker, simpler, and more reliable.

PITTSBURGH (February 12, 2019) … According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the number one cause of death in the United States.1 Conditions for cardiomyopathy, a heart muscle disease leading to heart failure, are clinically silent until serious complications arise, and current diagnostic tools are unreliable, time consuming, and expensive. Moni K. Datta, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, received a $300,000 award from the Department of Defense to develop a quicker, simpler, and more reliable diagnostic technology related to cardiomyopathy so that the signs of disease can be spotted and treated earlier.

One method currently applied to cardiovascular disease diagnosis is biochemical marker testing, using only bodily fluids or tissues to search for substances that signal disease or other abnormalities. The goal of this project, “Novel Aptamer-Based Biosensor Platforms for Detection of Cardiomyopathy Conditions,” is to create a tool that more efficiently senses and detects various essential cardiac biomarkers in the bloodstream. This work has previously received funding from the Department of Bioengineering’s Coulter Program as well as the Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Translational Research Pilot Award.

Prashant N. Kumta, Edward R. Weidlein Chair and Distinguished Professor of bioengineering, chemical and petroleum engineering, mechanical engineering and materials science, and professor of oral biology in the School of Dental Medicine, is co-investigator on the project with Robert L. Kormas, Brack G. Hattler Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Datta said, “Dr. Kumta has extensive experience related to materials functionalization and generation of materials platforms for detection and sensing of biological markers while Dr. Robert Kormas is a renowned cardiologist and an expert in understanding the cardiac biomarkers connected to various cardiovascular diseases.”

The group will develop a portable biosensor specific to the cardiac biomarkers using only a few drops of blood to detect and provide the levels within minutes.

“The design will include a vertical array of metallic wires functionalized with biological sensing agents, namely the aptamer specific to binding the relevant cardiac biomarkers in the blood,” said Datta. “The resulting platform will measure the change in overall resistance due to the binding of the specific cardiac biomarker to the sensing element. The developed biosensors are extremely sensitive to the resistance changes and as a result, will accurately measure the levels of relevant cardiac markers in the blood, thereby serving as an effective measuring device.”

Current biochemical marker assays in hospitals and clinics are benchtop machines that lack portability and require expensive instrumentation and training. Datta’s design will be optimized for precision, reliability, and portability, making biochemical marker testing more accessible in hospitals, emergency room settings, ambulances, and perhaps even at home.

“This device will allow patients and clinicians to screen for and circumvent cardiovascular diseases at early stages, thus reducing the cardiovascular disease risk and eventual healthcare costs,” said Datta. “Development of this biosensor will create a simple, inexpensive, and efficient point-of-contact device. We hope to eventually make this versatile technology useful for detection and monitoring disease conditions outside of cardiovascular disease states.”


1 According to the AHA… https://www.heart.org/-/media/data-import/downloadables/heart-disease-and-stroke-statistics-2018---at-a-glance-ucm_498848.pdf

Contact: Leah Russell