New Biodegradable Sensors Assist Physicians in Examining Serious Health Conditions

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New study reports that biodegradable pressure sensors could monitor conditions such as encephalitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The study was featured in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on January 17, 2018. The device is expected to replace existing implantable pressure sensors that contain potentially toxic components, which cannot be implanted for long-term. Engineers at the University of Connecticut (UConn) have developed a biodegradable pressure sensor, which have applications in bone grafts, surgical sutures, and medical implants. The flexible sensor is small device made of medically safe materials that have already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

This is the first study to use biocompatible materials in this way, says Thanh Duc Nguyen, the senior author of the paper. The UConn sensor produces a minute electrical charge when pressure is applied tissue regeneration is stimulated. Other potential applications of the device include the examination of patients with heart disease, glaucoma, and bladder cancer. A prototype of the sensor developed in Nyugen’s lab comprised a thin polymer film that was implanted in the abdomen of a mouse observe the respiratory rate. It produced reliable readings of contractions in the mouse’s diaphragm for four days before its decomposition into individual organic components.

The researchers also implanted the device in the back of a mouse and then observed for responses from mouse’s immune system. The device recorded some minor inflammation following insertion. However, the surrounding tissues returned to normal after four weeks, proving that the sensor was medically safe. The sensor can capture a wide range of physiological pressures, such as those found in the brain, behind the eye, and in the abdomen.

According to Medical Sensors Market Report published by Coherent Market Insights, Medical sensors that measure the physical functions of the body and convert it into an electrical or optical signal. These devices play a major role in the monitoring of chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases to measure the physical function and convert it into the electrical signal. Research team is working to extend the sensor’s functional lifetime to develop a biodegradable sensor system that could decompose within the human body. Until then, the new sensor can be utilized in its current form to help patients avoid invasive removal surgery.

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