Wireless brain sensors developed by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are smaller than a pencil tip and can monitor intracranial pressure and temperature before being absorbed by the body, negating the need for surgery to remove the devices.
Such implants potentially could be used to monitor patients with traumatic brain injuries, but the researchers believe they can build similar absorbable sensors to monitor activity in organ systems throughout the body.
‘Electronic devices and their biomedical applications are advancing rapidly,’ said co-first author Rory K. J. Murphy, MD, a neurosurgery resident at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. ‘But a major hurdle has been that implants placed in the body often trigger an immune response, which can be problematic for patients. The benefit of these new devices is that they dissolve over time, so you don’t have something in the body for a long time period, increasing the risk of infection, chronic inflammation and even erosion through the skin or the organ in which it’s placed. Plus, using resorbable devices negates the need for surgery to retrieve them, which further lessens the risk of infection and further complications.’
Murphy is most interested in monitoring pressure and temperature in the brains of patients with traumatic brain injury.
About 50,000 people die of such injuries annually in the United States. When patients with such injuries arrive in the hospital, doctors must be able to accurately measure intracranial pressure in the brain and inside the skull because an increase in pressure can lead to further brain injury, and there is no way to reliably estimate pressure levels from brain scans or clinical features in patients.
‘However, the devices commonly used today are based on technology from the 1980s,’ Murphy explained. ‘They’re large, they’re unwieldy, and they have wires that connect to monitors in the intensive care unit. They give accurate readings, and they help, but there are ways to make them better.’
Murphy collaborated with engineers in the laboratory of John A. Rogers, PhD, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Illinois, to build new sensors. The devices are made mainly of polylactic-co-glycolic acid (PLGA) and silicone, and they can transmit accurate pressure and temperature readings, as well as other information.
Washington University School of Medicine at St Louis http://tinyurl.com/hoqcm6w