The researchers found that the wall of the aorta, the largest blood vessel carrying blood from the heart, exhibits ferroelectricity, a response to an electric field known to exist in inorganic and synthetic materials. The findings are being published in an upcoming issue of the journal Physical Review Letters.
Jiangyu Li, UW
Electrical response overlaid on the inner aortic wall.
“The result is exciting for scientific reasons,” said lead author Jiangyu Li, a UW associate professor of mechanical engineering. “But it could also have biomedical implications.”
A ferroelectric material is an electrically polar molecule with one side positively charged and the other negatively charged, whose polarity can be reversed by applying an electrical field.
Ferroelectricity is common in synthetic materials and used for displays, memory storage, and sensors. (Related research by Li and colleagues seeks to exploit ferroelectric materials for tiny low-power, high-capacity computer memory chips.)
In the new study, Li collaborated with co-author Katherine Zhang at Boston University to explore the phenomenon in biological tissues. The only previous evidence of ferroelectricity in living tissue was reported last year in seashells. Others had looked in mammal tissue, mainly in bones, but found no signs of the property.
The new study shows clear evidence of ferroelectricity in a sample of a pig aorta. Researchers believe the findings would also apply to human tissue.
In subsequent work, yet to be published, they divided the sample into fibrous collagen and springy elastin and studied each one on its own. Pinpointing the source of the ferroelectricity may answer questions about how or whether it plays a role in the body.
“The elastin network is what gives the artery the mechanical property of elasticity, which of course is a very important function,” Li said.
Ferroelectricity may therefore play a role in how the body responds to sugar or fat.
Diabetes is a risk factor for hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. The team is investigating the interactions between ferroelectricity and charged glucose molecules, in hopes of better understanding sugar’s effect on the mechanical properties of the aortic walls.
Another possible application is to treat a condition in which cholesterol molecules stick to the inside of the channel, eventually closing it off.
“We can imagine if we could manipulate the polarity of the artery wall, if we could switch it one way or the other, then we might, for example, better understand the deposition of cholesterol which leads to the thickening and hardening of the artery wall,” Li said.
He cautions that medical applications are still speculations, and require more research.
“A lot of questions remain to be answered, that’s an exciting aspect of the result,” Li said.
Co-authors are Yuanming Liu and Qian Nataly Chen at the UW, and Yanhang Zhang and Ming-Jay Chow at Boston University.
The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Army Research Office, the UW’s Center for Nanotechnology and a NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship.
For more information, contact Li at 206-543-6226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
See also an American Institute of Physics article about the finding.
Hannah Hickey | EurekAlert!
LIGO confirms RIT's breakthrough prediction of gravitational waves
12.02.2016 | Rochester Institute of Technology
Milestone in physics: gravitational waves detected with the laser system from LZH
12.02.2016 | Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V.
Today, plants and microorganisms are heavily used for the production of medicinal products. The production of biopharmaceuticals in plants, also referred to as “Molecular Pharming”, represents a continuously growing field of plant biotechnology. Preferred host organisms include yeast and crop plants, such as maize and potato – plants with high demands. With the help of a special algal strain, the research team of Prof. Ralph Bock at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam strives to develop a more efficient and resource-saving system for the production of medicines and vaccines. They tested its practicality by synthesizing a component of a potential AIDS vaccine.
The use of plants and microorganisms to produce pharmaceuticals is nothing new. In 1982, bacteria were genetically modified to produce human insulin, a drug...
Atomic clock experts from the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) are the first research group in the world to have built an optical single-ion clock which attains an accuracy which had only been predicted theoretically so far. Their optical ytterbium clock achieved a relative systematic measurement uncertainty of 3 E-18. The results have been published in the current issue of the scientific journal "Physical Review Letters".
Atomic clock experts from the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) are the first research group in the world to have built an optical single-ion clock...
The University of Würzburg has two new space projects in the pipeline which are concerned with the observation of planets and autonomous fault correction aboard satellites. The German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy funds the projects with around 1.6 million euros.
Detecting tornadoes that sweep across Mars. Discovering meteors that fall to Earth. Investigating strange lightning that flashes from Earth's atmosphere into...
Physicists from Saarland University and the ESPCI in Paris have shown how liquids on solid surfaces can be made to slide over the surface a bit like a bobsleigh on ice. The key is to apply a coating at the boundary between the liquid and the surface that induces the liquid to slip. This results in an increase in the average flow velocity of the liquid and its throughput. This was demonstrated by studying the behaviour of droplets on surfaces with different coatings as they evolved into the equilibrium state. The results could prove useful in optimizing industrial processes, such as the extrusion of plastics.
The study has been published in the respected academic journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America).
Exceeding critical temperature limits in the Southern Ocean may cause the collapse of ice sheets and a sharp rise in sea levels
A future warming of the Southern Ocean caused by rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere may severely disrupt the stability of the West...
12.02.2016 | Event News
09.02.2016 | Event News
02.02.2016 | Event News
12.02.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
12.02.2016 | Life Sciences
12.02.2016 | Medical Engineering