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  • Could 'Bioresorbable' Sensors Help Individuals Recover From Brain Injury, Surgery?

    They melt in your brain, not in your hand.

    Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne have created a sensor they hope can one day be implanted in the brains of patients to monitor and wirelessly transmit data on pressure and temperature within the skull for a time, and then simply resorb into the body. Researchers believe the new approach could help make physical therapy less complicated for individuals recovering from brain injury or surgery (no more external wires in the way) and reduce the incidence of infection, allergic reaction, or other complications associated with implanted sensors that require external wiring and eventual surgical removal.

    Described in a report in Science Daily as "smaller than a grain of rice," the sensors are made of thin sheets of naturally biodegradable silicon that send data to a transmitter "roughly the size of a postage stamp" implanted under the skin of the skull. This transmitter in turn feeds temperature and pressure data to monitoring equipment, all without the use of external wires.

    So far, the new technology has only been tested on rats, but researchers tell Science Daily that the measurement precision of the dissolvable sensors "was just as good as that of the conventional devices." Results of the animal testing were published in the January 18 issue of Nature.

    Rory Murphy, a neurosurgeon at Washington University and part of the research team, told Science Daily that "the ultimate strategy is to have a device that you can place in the brain—or in other organs in the body—that is entirely implanted, intimately connected with the organ you want to monitor and can transmit signals wirelessly to provide information on the health of that organ, allowing doctors to intervene if necessary to prevent bigger problems. After the critical period that you actually want to monitor, it will dissolve away and disappear."

    According to Science Daily, researchers are "moving toward" human trials of the technology, and looking at other possible areas of the body that would be well-suited for this type of monitoring system. They also hope to investigate ways the technology could be used to deliver electrical stimulation or drugs.