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UCLQ scientists propose new imaging method for cardiac arrhythmias

UCLQ scientists, Professor Ferruccio Renzoni and Dr Luca Marmugi have recently published a paper in Nature Scientific Reports proposing a novel diagnostic and guidance tool for atrial fibrillation. The device is based on quantum sensors (atomic magnetometers) operated in magnetic induction tomography (MIT) modality. The work was realised in the context of an UCLQ Fellowship Doctoral Award that Dr Marmugi obtained last year.

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) affects a significant fraction of the ageing population, causing a high level of morbidity and mortality. Despite its significance, the causes of AF are still not uniquely identified. This, combined with the lack of precise diagnostic and guiding tools, makes the clinical treatment of AF sub-optimal.

Professor Renzoni and Dr Marmugi identified that MIT was the ideal solution to the lack of diagnostic tools for cardiac fibrillation and, in particular, for AF.

In fact, magnetocardiography and electrocardiography do not provide any direct information about the causes of the irregular heart beat and, more importantly, the structures producing it” they wrote.

They investigated the feasibility of a working device suitable both for research and clinical practice, and demonstrated that the envisioned instrument satisfies the technical and medical requirements to have a relevant impact on the clinical practice.

Optical atomical magnetomenters (OAMs) are ideal in their hypothetical imaging tool as they solve the sensitivity and bandwidth issues of standard MIT systems to provide better detection of the MIT signal in an unshielded environment and at room temperature.

It is believed that OAMs’ characteristics will also provide additional advantages in the daily clinical practice, since the direct mapping of the heart’s conductivity allows the healthcare practitioner the ability to simultaneously address the anatomy, physiology and the pathology of the heart.  This device is an example of direct application of quantum sensing to healthcare and it is of likely interest to a broad audience, involving physicists, engineers, biologists, and healthcare professionals and researchers.

The possibility of non-invasively mapping the heart’s conductivity will shade new light on the fundamental mechanisms of fibrillation and will provide a new tool to improve the clinical treatment of this condition.

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