Cool device could save lives

Researchers from Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago are working on a way to provide rapid, internal cooling of the heart and brain in order to save victims of heart attacks.

An Argonne-engineered ice slurry could be used to induce localised hypothermia, which slows cell death.

The slurry could be delivered by paramedics to the lungs, which act as heat exchangers to cool the blood. If necessary, the slurry also could be injected via a hypodermic syringe into the subcutaneous tissue along the outside of the carotid arteries for additional cooling.

Research was required on two fronts to develop the slurry concept. First, heat transfer modelling by Argonne researchers confirmed that external cooling could not provide the required temperature decrease in the brain quickly enough to minimise damage but that internal cooling could.

Second, Argonne engineered highly fluid slurries using chemicals compatible with human tissues and worked with The University of Chicago to develop methods and equipment for slurry delivery.

Tests conducted at The University of Chicago with the Argonne slurry revealed that internal cooling methods could provide brain and heart cooling rates that are more than 20 times faster than those provided by conventional methods.

Efforts are underway to develop ice slurry of even greater ice particle content, conduct additional tests, further improve the slurry delivery devices, and engineer the slurry production and delivery equipment that eventually would be used by paramedics.

Argonne’s expertise in nanofluids technology is also being used to broaden the use of slurries beyond cooling by developing magnetic medicated particle slurries that could be transported through blood vessels to targets and held in position by magnetic forces applied from outside the body.