Photos show the dissolution of a biodegradable integrated circuit that can be used to apply treatment inside a human body. Researchers from Tufts University, Northwestern University, and the University of Illinois-Urbana collaborated to create the device, which includes circuit components made of magnesium and silicone semiconductors, all on a thin film of silk. The research was funded by DARPA and the National Science Foundation.
Mind boggling technology to be sure. I can certainly see the application - any surgery is hard on the human body. We have experienced vast improvements with robotic surgery but there is still healing that must occur after any procedure. Avoiding the need for a second procedure would be a great thing - especially for the elderly. I personally would be leery of putting anything in the human body that it "didn't come with" and allow it to dissolve - I am not sure if we fully understand how substances affect the body on the celluar level - but that fear shouldn't stop the research - the reserach just needs to prove those fears are groundless. This technology has many challenges to meet but sounds very worthwhile...
While my initial response was "Wow, how cool", my next was I'm not going to trust a mechanical engineering expert on what materials are and are not considered safe inside the human body. I'm not sure I'd even trust a biologist or anyone else who hadn't already done the research on these materials with animal studies. There have been way too many incidents, such as medical implant materials that were supposed to be safe but weren't, or were supposed to last for decades, but didn't. The idea is great--the execution will take a lot of work to implement correctly.
I agree with both of you ladies that while this technology is certainly fascinating, it is hard right now to gauge the safety and impact on the human body. Obviously, it won't be used until it's been thoroughly tested and proven safe (at least we hope!). But then, think of silicone breast implants...they were thought safe as well but there have been a number of cases in which they've proven a health risk. It certainly remains to be seen how this will play out, but the idea of treating patients internally without excess waste and minimal invasion is certainly a worthwhile one for continued research, in my opinion.
I agree - I think part of the problem is that you get researchers who are specializing in one area that is their main area of concern and while they know that area of the body and do a good job, they don't have an understanding on how other areas of the body are affected...this stuff is incredibly complicated and there are always the possibility of different body chemistries responding differently to the same substance. These folks have their work cut out for them!
Yes, that is true, Nancy. The thing is, I think the best case scenario for this type of research is to have a medical doctor on board from the beginning to consult. I recently wrote another story in which a medical doctor specializing in the research field also was a part of the team developing the technology, so he could provide his opinion on the kinds of concerns a patient might have. Even then, of course, you never know until the technology is used. But it's certainly a good place to start.
Great point, Elizabeth - I would go for a team of doctors that specialized in different areas since multiple areas would be affected. Having them in place from the beginning could possibly prevent a lot of issues upfront. I think you are right on target!
Instead of a timed dissolve from a coating, maybe an external signal or chemical initiator? That way if the treatment needed to be extended or shortened due to the body's response, timing could be adjusted. This has nothing to do with the effect of the electronics on the body, dissolved or intact, just the trigger mechanism.
That's a good point. What if the body didn't respond as doctors expect to the treatment and needs more than the treatment is timed for? I am sure as researchers continue their work they will consider different scenarios and try to come up with methods that best suit them.
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