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Sensors Slip Into the Brain, Then Dissolve When the Job Is Done


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An implantable sensor, compared to the tip of a syringe.

Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed flexible sensors that can operate accurately inside the human body for at least five days before dissolving.

Credit: John Rogers/University of Illionis at Urbana-Champaign

University of Illinois researchers led by professor John Rogers have developed flexible sensors that can operate accurately inside the human body for at least five days before dissolving.

The pressure and temperature sensors are intended to be implanted directly into the brain, and will completely dissolve within a few weeks.

The researchers demonstrated the devices in rats, using soluble wires to transmit the signals, as well as a wireless version.

The technology can be adapted to sense fluid flow, motion, pH, and other parameters, and could be implanted in the heart, other organs, or in the skin.

The devices are microelectromechanical systems made out of a membrane of polylactic-co-glycolic acid, a biodegradable polymer common in medical applications. The membrane sits on a substrate of nanoporous silicon or a metal foil, which is etched with trenches that create an air cavity, enabling the membrane to deflect in response to pressure changes in the surrounding fluid.

The researchers plan to continue to improve the technology, pushing its useful life to four weeks before the devices dissolve.

The next stage of the research involves resorbable devices that go beyond sensing to actively helping with treatment.

From IEEE Spectrum
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