During a heart attack, the phrase “every minute matters” is not a cliché. It’s a harsh reality with what can be deadly consequences.

Cardiologists will tell you that “time is muscle.” The longer you wait before getting treatment for a heart attack, the more heart tissue dies.

Typically, when emergency personnel arrive at the scene of someone experiencing heart attack symptoms, they use an electrocardiogram, or EKG, to measure the heart’s electric activity and determine if a heart attack is taking place. But here’s the catch: For about half of individuals experiencing a heart attack, an EKG won’t detect abnormalities.

If the EKG confirms a heart attack, emergency personnel can activate a system in which the hospital swiftly prepares for the incoming patient. If not, the patient has to go through the emergency department and do additional testing to confirm the heart attack.

Meanwhile, tick-tock goes the clock. And more heart muscle dies.

UNCG’s Dr. Jianjun Wei in the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering has found a potential solution in a point-of-care biosensor built with nanostructures.

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Originally published Feb. 25, 2019.