Following up on our coverage of the work of John Rogers, who is leading efforts at University of Illinois to develop flexible and bioresorbable electronic systems, there’s news now of new findings evaluating such implants in animal models.
Presented at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), Rogers discussed a thermoactive implant that delivered localized heating to prevent bacterial growth in surrounding tissue. The implant worked as intended, producing a prophylactic effect and then dissolving completely into the body. The research foreshadows implants that treat acute pain, monitor surgical sites, and restore biological function before essentially disappearing without having to perform excisions.
Some details about the technology from ACS:
The electronics are enclosed in material that dissolves completely after a certain period of time when exposed to water or body fluids, somewhat like dissolvable sutures. By altering the number of layers of the wrapping, scientists can define everything about how the device will dissolve in the body or in the environment, including its overall lifetime, said Rogers. The devices perform just as well as conventional electronics and function normally until the encapsulating layer disappears. Once that happens, it takes about 30 minutes for the electronic connections to dissolve away, and the device stops working. Current versions of the devices remain operable for a few weeks. Rogers’ team is researching ways to make devices that last a few years.
The scientists also reported progress in making the devices with conventional manufacturing processes instead of meticulously building the electronics one-by-one by hand in a laboratory. “It’s a step toward producing these devices with the kind of manufacturing processes that are already in wide use for traditional electronics like silicon-based microprocessors and memory technology,” said Rogers.
Another advance involved the materials for making and powering the devices without an external electricity source. Rogers said, for instance, that the latest transient electronic devices incorporate zinc oxide, which is “piezoelectric.” It means that thin, flexible devices made with zinc oxide could produce electricity when bent or twisted — perhaps by movement of muscles in the body, pulsation of blood vessels or beating of the heart.
Flashbacks: Dissolvable “Transient Electronics” Will Be Good For Your Body and the Environment; Nanoscale Flexible Circuits From IBM ; Smart Surgical Gloves May Monitor Patients’ Health; Now Even Sutures Are Becoming Electronic;
Press release: New ‘transient electronics’ disappear when no longer needed…