New sound wave promises stem cell therapy breakthrough

8 January 2016
By Tereza Pultarova
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Sound waves could be used in stem cell therapy

Sound waves could be used in stem cell therapy

A new class of sound wave – the first created in more than 50 years – could bring about a breakthrough in stem cell therapy. 

Created by researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, the new wave is a combination of two types of acoustic sound waves – the bulk waves and the surface waves.

While bulk waves somewhat resemble a carpet, which is being held at one end and shaken, surface waves are similar to rolling ocean waves. The new wave, for which the researchers chose the name 'surface reflected bulk wave', harnesses the best of both types. 

Despite its considerable energy, the wave is very gentle, making it suitable for biomedical applications.

The team believes the waves could be used to manipulate stem cells without damaging them – a possible breakthrough in stem cell therapy.

"Our work opens up the possibility of using stem cells more efficiently for treating lung disease, enabling us to nebulise stem cells straight into a specific site within the lung to repair damaged tissue,” explained Amgad Rezk, from RMIT's Micro/Nano Research Laboratory, who led the research team.

"This is a real game changer for stem cell treatment in the lungs."

The scientists experimented with the new soundwave in a device called nebuliser, which is commonly used to deliver medicine to the lungs of asthma sufferers.

"We have used the new sound waves to slash the time required for inhaling vaccines through the nebuliser device, from 30 minutes to as little as 30 seconds," Rezk said. "Instead of administering or nebulising medicine at around 0.2ml per minute, we did up to 5ml per minute. That's a huge difference," Rezk noted.

The innovative nebuliser that uses the new sound waves has been presented in the latest issue of the journal Advanced Materials.

Dubbed Hydra, the system converts electricity passing through a piezoelectric chip into mechanical vibration, or sound waves, which in turn breaks liquid into a spray.

The team hopes the technology could help patients with various lung conditions including asthma or cystic fibrosis, but could also be used to administer insulin to diabetes sufferers.

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