Researchers from the University of Illinois and the Washington University have published a paper titled “Bioresorbable Silicon Electronic Sensors for the Brain” in the journal Nature, detailing the development of tiny electronic sensors that can be used to monitor intracranial pressure and temperature after brain surgery or injury, and then melt away.
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According to the Illinois News Bureau, the grain-sized sensors will minimize risks of hemorrhage and related infections after brain surgeries, while eradicating additional surgery to take out the sensors after use in the brain.
John A. Rogers, a professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Wilson Ray, a professor of neurological surgery at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis led other scientists to develop the tiny electronic sensors for post-operative monitoring purposes.
“This is a new class of electronic biomedical implants,” said Rogers. “These kinds of systems have potential across a range of clinical practices, where therapeutic or monitoring devices are implanted or ingested, perform a sophisticated function, and then resorb harmlessly into the body after their function is no longer necessary.”
Rogers also supervises the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory at Illinois.
Swelling and pressure sometimes occur in the brain following surgery, and this needs to be monitored for prevention and necessary action. But the current technology for doing this is highly invasive and bulky, not to mention the fact that connected wires disturb the patient and limit movement.
Sometimes, brain implants cause allergic reactions in patients, leading to injury infection and internal hemorrhage and at other times inflammation at site of surgery – hence the need for tiny, meltable implants such as this.
“If you simply could throw out all the conventional hardware and replace it with very tiny, fully implantable sensors capable of the same function, constructed out of bioresorbable materials in a way that also eliminates or greatly miniaturizes the wires, then you could remove a lot of the risk and achieve better patient outcomes,” Rogers said.
It must however be pointed out that research experiments were conducted on animal models and not on humans yet, where successes with the new brain sensors were measured to correspond with those of current technology implants. The implants are made of dissolvable and biodegradable silicon, able to melt away into the body’s own fluids within weeks when their work is fully done.
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The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.