A team of engineers at the University of Connecticut has invented a device which may change medicine as we know it. Researchers say the device could be used as a stimulus for regenerating tissue, or monitoring diseases like glaucoma, heart disease, and cancer. Read more about this development below or at the original source here.
The device is a form of pressure sensor. It’s small, and more importantly biodegradable. These qualities taken together make the new sensor capable of monitoring chronic health conditions and then simply dissolving in the patient’s body. The device can naturally disappear with no need for surgical removal and with no harm done.
To accomplish this, the University of Connecticut team made their sensor out of materials already approved for medical use by the United States Food and Drug Administration.
Every material in the sensor is a material already deemed safe for use in surgical sutures, medical implants, and bone grafts.
The new sensor will replace older models that are known to have potential health risks.
Another feature of the new sensor is its ability to generate electrical charge. When the sensor encounters pressure it creates a small amount of electricity. Researchers suggest that this charge could be used to jump start tissue generation in some cases.
The greatest advance of the sensor, however, is its biodegradability.
It’s the first of its kind. Most current generation medical sensors must be implanted into delicate organs and tissues. There are risks with surgical implantation as well as further risks upon removal. Researchers solved this problem by creating a sensor that would vanish when its job was done.
To test the sensor, the team implanted a prototype in a mouse. They monitored the respiratory system of the mouse for four days using a device that was just five millimeters wide and 200 micrometers thick. After the fourth day the device broke down into its component parts and was gone. The sensor left the mouse unharmed.
During other tests, the sensor was rated to be every bit as effective as modern day sensors. Though it is made form new materials, it proves to be as reliable as the current standbys. The new sensor can be used to detect pressures in the brain, behind eyes, and in the abdominal cavity. Certain factors in the creation of individual sensors can even adjust its sensitivity to specific needs.
Researchers on the development team note that there are many ways the device could be used. One big advance is the safety with which it would allow monitoring of brain tissue. Monitoring devices could be connected to biodegradable sensors and wires so that nothing dangerous ever touches delicate brain tissue.
A patent for the new device is underway. Research continues in the lab to better the device and extend the amount of time it can exist and provide monitoring. In its current state, the new sensor is poised to eliminate a number of invasive procedures, and drastically lower the risk of medical monitoring.