University of Pennsylvania Professor Shu Yang has developed a crystalline material which may aid in the diagnosis of brain trauma for soldiers in the field. The crystal patch, which can be applied to a soldier’s uniform, will change shape and therefore color when a shockwave hits the material. Researchers are still unsure as to how color changes correlate to the severity of brain damage and to neurological damage. However,shockwaves from bomb blasts can cause damage to the brain that cannot be detected by CT scanning or MRI. These crystalline-patches can potentially solve this problem and allow for the adequate and prompt treatment of these soldiers. The technology itself seems promising and has the potential to save many soldiers who have brain injuries that may not be apparent on CT or MRI scans.
From BBC News:
MRI scans pick up structural damage, such as bleeds on the brain, excess fluid or skull fractures.
But a shockwave, such as that caused by a bomb can cause damage on a cellular level, with microscopic tears in the brain.
This would not be picked up on a scan but like any brain injury can cause long-term problems with symptoms such as headaches, behaviour change and memory loss.
When a shock wave hits the material, which would be in the form of a thin film, like a small sticker, the crystals would change shape and thus colour.
“Depending on the damage, you’ll have different colour intensities,” said Professor Yang [Shu Yang, University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia]. “Based on that information we can extract how much force the soldier has received.”
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Image: Sample image from Dr Yang’s lab demonstrating the wrinkles created within the material after a bit of mechanical interference.