Scientists Create Tiny Dissolvable Sensors To Monitor Chronic Brain Injuries

Posted: Jan 19 2016, 8:09am CST | by , Updated: Jan 20 2016, 9:37pm CST, in News | Latest Science News


Scientists Create Tiny Absorbable Sensors to Monitor Chronic Brain Injuries
Credit: Washington University School of Medicine

The new device can monitor pressure and temperature in the brains of the patients and will dissolve once the job is done

Scientists have developed tiny, wireless electronic sensors that can be implanted in a person’s brain to monitor an injury and can dissolve once the job is done.

A combined team of researchers from Washington University School of Medicine and the University of Illinois have created tiny devices, smaller than a grain of rice, possibly to regularly check temperature and pressure of patients with traumatic brain injuries so the doctors can detect and deal with any bigger problem before it gets too late.

“The ultimate strategy is to have a device that you can place in the brain - or in other organs in the body - that is entirely implanted, intimately connected with the organ you want to monitor and can transmit signals wirelessly to provide information on the health of that organ, allowing doctors to intervene if necessary to prevent bigger problems,” said Rory Murphy, a neurosurgery resident at Washington University School of Medicine and co-author of the study. “And then after the critical period that you actually want to monitor, it will dissolve away and disappear.”

Regular devices that are used for monitoring the activity in the body carry the risk of infection and inflammation. Moreover, it requires surgery to remove them from the body. 

“Electronic devices and their biomedical applications are advancing rapidly but a major hurdle has been that implants in the body often trigger an immune response, which can be problematic for patients,” said Murphy. 

“The benefit of these new devices is that they dissolve over time, so you don’t have something in the body for a long time period, increasing the risk of infection, chronic inflammation and even erosion through the skin or the organ in which it’s placed. Plus, using restorable devices negates the need for surgery to retrieve them, which further lessens the risk of infection and further complications.”

Modern monitoring devices are also large and connected with multiple wires which make it difficult to carry them from one place to another. The new small and wireless sensors are mainly made of polylactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) and silicone, and can provide accurate readings. 

Researchers have initially tested the device in the brains of rats in laboratory. Sensors worked accurately and dissolved when their job was over. Next, they are planning to try out the technology on human patients. 

“With advanced materials and device designs, we demonstrated that it is possible to create electronic implants that offer high performance and clinically relevant operation in hardware that completely resorbs into the body after the relevant functions are no longer needed. This type of bio-electric medicine has great potential in many areas of clinical care.” John A. Rogers, a professor of materials science and engineering from University of Illinois said. 

Every year about 50,000 people die of chronic brain injuries in US. To save their lives, it is necessary to accurately measure the pressure inside the brain and skull. Increase in pressure can lead to further damage so neurosurgeons attempt to decrease pressure using medications or even with surgery. The new device can be placed at different locations during such operations too.

The device is created to monitor brain activity but researchers are hoping to build similar absorbable sensors to monitor other organs in the body as well.  

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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