Scientists develop a pain-treating, transient electronic implant that dissolves into the body over time
Researchers at the University of Illinois, Tufts University, and Northwestern University have banded together to create a new & innovative piece of medical history. For years, scientists have been creating electronics that could withstand the test of time, but these researchers have done just the opposite: creating an electronic device designed to disappear once the job is done. The innovation is an implant that dissolves into bodily fluids.
Biodegradable, water soluble, and completely safe, these electric implants are being designed for the purpose of relieving pain and other medical applications, without the need for a second procedure to remove it. The chip is made of silicon and magnesium oxide, protected in a layer of silk. The silk plays a key role in the chip’s development. By using thin sheets of silk that have been dissolved and recrystallized, the scientists can control how long it will take for the chip to dissolve. The conductors and other components are also dissolvable, paving a new wave of technology that is applicable in the medical world, as well as other fields.
The uses of this innovation vary. It has been used on a post-operative patient to warm the incision site and keep it bacteria free, absorbing back into the body after a couple of weeks. It can also be used in digital cameras, diodes, photodetectors, solar cells, antennas, and much more. Researchers have already created and tested a 64-pixel digital camera and an implantable applique for monitoring and preventing bacterial infections at surgical incisions, which has already been tested successfully in rats.
The different applications that we are considering require different operating time frames, said John A. Rogers, the Lee J. Flory-Founder Professor of Engineering at the University of Illinois, who led the multidisciplinary research team. A medical implant that is designed to deal with potential infections from surgical site incisions is only needed for a couple of weeks. But for a consumer electronic device, you’d want it to stick around at least for a year or two. The ability to use materials science to engineer those time frames becomes a critical aspect in design.
The team is still busy at work brainstorming new ways to use what they know to create new devices. It’s a new concept, so there are lots of opportunities, many of which we probably have not even identified yet Rogers said. We’re very excited. These findings open up entirely new areas of application, and associated directions for research in electronics.
Written By: Jenna McClure
Source: University Of Illinois
Photo credit: University Of Illinois, Beckman Institute, Tufts University