The Loh Down On Science

Smart Catheters

Recommended by Doctor Mom?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Catheters are small tubes placed in blood vessels or the urinary tract to give medications or drain fluids. That’s good. What’s bad is that putting something foreign into your body, even for a short while, can lead to infection.

Enter researchers from the University of Michigan. They've developed a “smart catheter.” Why smart? It senses the start of an infection and nips it in the bacterial bud.

We already have infection-fighting catheters. But they release antibiotics constantly, so quickly run out of drugs. Uh oh.

What boosts the IQ of the new catheter is that it doesn't do anything ... until it senses a change in pH—that's a sign of bacterial buildup. When the buildup reaches critical levels, the catheter “turns on,” releasing nitric oxide. NO is a molecule that kills microbes. Once the pH levels give the all-clear, the catheter stops releasing NO.

Smart, just like mom. When you're well enough for Xbox, she's done feeding you chicken soup.

If mom were a small flexible tube in your blood vessels that is.  If only.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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