Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ferroelectric switching discovered for first time in soft biological tissue

Date:
January 30, 2012
Source:
University of Washington
Summary:
The walls of the aorta, the largest blood vessel carrying blood from the heart, exhibits a response to electric fields known to exist in inorganic and synthetic materials. The discovery could have implications for treating human heart disease.

Electrical response overlaid on the inner aortic wall.
Credit: Jiangyu Li, UW

The heart's inner workings are mysterious, perhaps even more so with a new finding. Engineers at the University of Washington have discovered an electrical property in arteries not seen before in mammalian tissues.

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.

"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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Washington. The original article was written by Hannah Hickey. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Yuanming Liu, Yanhang Zhang, Ming-Jay Chow, Qian Nataly Chen, and Jiangyu Li. Biological ferroelectricity uncovered in aortic walls by piezoresponse force microscopy. Physical Review Letters, 2012; (accepted) [link]

Cite This Page:

University of Washington. "Ferroelectric switching discovered for first time in soft biological tissue." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 January 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120130170149.htm>.
University of Washington. (2012, January 30). Ferroelectric switching discovered for first time in soft biological tissue. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120130170149.htm
University of Washington. "Ferroelectric switching discovered for first time in soft biological tissue." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120130170149.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

President To Send 3,000 Military Personnel To Fight Ebola

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) President Obama is expected to send 3,000 troops to West Africa as part of the effort to contain Ebola's spread. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama Orders Military Response to Ebola

Obama Orders Military Response to Ebola

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Calling the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a potential threat to global security, President Barack Obama is ordering 3,000 U.S. military personnel to the stricken region amid worries that the outbreak is spiraling out of control. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
UN: 20,000 Could Be Infected With Ebola by Year End

UN: 20,000 Could Be Infected With Ebola by Year End

AFP (Sep. 16, 2014) Nearly $1.0 billion dollars is needed to fight the Ebola outbreak raging in west Africa, the United Nations say, warning that 20,000 could be infected by year end. Duration: 00:40 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: Ebola Outbreak Threat to Global Security

Obama: Ebola Outbreak Threat to Global Security

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) President Obama is ordering U.S. military personnel to West Africa to deal with the Ebola outbreak, which is he calls a potential threat to global security. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins