News / Health

Scientists Develop Vanishing Medical Device

Jessica Berman
They're called "biocompatible electronics"  - tiny medical implants designed to dissolve into the body's tissues after they have done their work.  Such devices may some day be used for fighting post-surgical infections, speeding bone development and a host of other medical applications.  

Unlike conventional medical implants such as heart valves or hip replacements that are designed to last a lifetime, “transient electronics” are made with tiny, ultra-thin silicon chips, containing magnesium electrodes, that completely melt away when they have served their function.  They're now being developed by a team of researchers at the University of Illinois, Northwestern University in Illinois and Tufts University in Massachusetts.

John Rogers is a University of Illinois engineering professor who leads the development team.  Rogers envisions a number of medical applications for the new devices, which combine microchips with so-called nano-membranes that slowly melt when exposed to water or biofluids.

“One example of that kind of device is in an applique, a thin film device that goes into the body at the site of a surgical incision to provide thermal therapy that can eliminate bacteria that would otherwise cause infection," said Rogers.

Rogers says the chip, which can be controlled wirelessly, is packaged in silk gathered from silkworm cocoons.  Researchers can alter the structure of the silk, Rogers says, to pre-set how long the silicon chips last - from minutes to days, weeks or even longer.

Rogers and colleagues conducted experiments in which they slipped the silicon wafers into surgical incisions on mice.  Rogers says the dissolvable chips, only a few tens of nanometers thick, heated the animals’ wounds for two weeks - just long enough to prevent infection and for healing to begin.

“And in that type of time regime, it’s advantageous for the device to simply disappear," he said.

Scientists examining the mice a few weeks later saw little sign of infection and only a faint residue of the silicon wafer at the wound sites.

Rogers says the device's electrodes are made of magnesium, a naturally fluid-soluble material. The amount of magnesium on a single chip is less than most people consume every day through their diets or in a multi-vitamin.

The biodegradable technology might some day have a wide range of applications - from environmental monitoring to creating disposable and non-polluting consumer electronic products.  But for now, researchers are focusing on the medical possibilities, including heart, brain and muscle activity monitors, as well as targeted drug delivery devices.

An article by John Rogers and colleagues on the development of a transient electronic medical device is published in the journal Science.  

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid