Implantation of a stent-like flow diverter can offer one option for less-invasive treatment of brain aneurysms — bulges in blood vessels — but the procedure requires frequent monitoring while the vessels heal. A multi-university research team has demonstrated proof-of-concept for a highly flexible and stretchable sensor that could be integrated with a flow diverter to monitor hemodynamics in a blood vessel without costly diagnostic procedures.

Woon-Hong Yeo holds a flow sensor on a stent backbone. (Credit: John Toon, Georgia Tech)

The sensor, which uses capacitance changes to measure blood flow, could reduce the need for testing to monitor the flow through the diverter. Researchers have shown that the sensor accurately measures fluid flow in animal blood vessels in vitro and are working on the next challenge: wireless operation that could allow in vivo testing.

The sensor uses a micro-membrane made of two metal layers surrounding a dielectric material and wraps around the flow diverter. The device is just a few hundred nanometers thick and is produced using nanofabrication and material transfer printing techniques, encapsulated in a soft elastomeric material. The researchers tested three materials for their sensors: gold, magnesium, and the nickel-titanium alloy known as nitinol. All can be safely used in the body, but magnesium offers the potential to be dissolved into the bloodstream after it is no longer needed.

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