Small blood clots called emboli are mostly known for traveling through the vasculature before they lodge and obstruct vessels, impeding blood and oxygen supply to organs such as the lung. To stop excessive bleeding or the flow of blood into an aneurysm, clinicians harness the same principle by forming artificial therapeutic emboli that can plug blood-carrying vessels. Using steerable catheters, they place tiny soft-metal coils or liquid embolic agents (“glues”) into the affected artery to block the passage of blood.
However, both procedures come with problems and risks. Coil embolization can be ineffective if the coil is not positioned or seized accurately, and coils need efficient blood clotting in patients to be stabilized. Liquid embolic agents, on the other hand, can be accidentally cemented to catheters or non-targeted areas due to insufficient control of their solidification. And, importantly, both types of emboli can become leaky over time.