Intelligent microbubbles

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What are microbubbles and why are they important?

Scientists have created particles that can detect and break down blood clots within minutes. The research funded by the Heart Foundation could improve treatment for people suffering heart disease and may even save lives.  

Results from the study, conducted by researchers at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, have been presented at cardiovascular conferences around the World and published in prominent international journals.

Professor Karlheinz Peter and Dr Xiaowei Wang have developed 'intelligent microbubbles', which are injected into patients’ veins. These particles find and attach themselves to clots and then release a drug to break them down. Using this technique, doctors will be able to see blood clots and monitor the effectiveness of the clot-busting microbubbles with an ultrasound machine. 

Dr Wang says microbubble technology has several advantages. It’s not invasive and doesn’t expose patients to radiation. Ultrasound scanners are also widely available in hospitals and outpatient clinics in Australia, providing a safe, fast and cost-effective way to detect and treat blood clots.

Currently, blood clots that cause myocardial infarction or stroke are most reliably diagnosed using catheters, which are inserted into the arteries – a procedure that is only available in larger hospitals. This often results in a delay of diagnosis and can lead to heart or brain damage. 

In addition, the available clinical therapy for heart attack or stroke comes with a substantial risk of complications, particularly bleeding problems.

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in Australia and blood clots (called thrombosis) are responsible for the majority of heart attacks and strokes. 

This and other research projects funded by the Heart Foundation are changing the way heart diseases are diagnosed and treated in Australia. In 2015, the Heart Foundation invested $12.5 million to fund over 200 research awards.

Find out more about our research program.  

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