The Green Brain: New Brain Sensors Dissolve in Soft Tissue

Biodegradable Device May be the Answer to Complications due to Implantation

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A team of researchers from the University of Illinois have developed technology to make things disappear from your brain—as if we needed any more of that. The team has designed an implantable sensor that is injected into the brain to monitor intracranial pressure and temperature in people with traumatic brain injuries. Instead of removing the device after some time or leaving it in permanently, as is usually done, these wireless sensors have been engineered to dissolve and be naturally reabsorbed into the soft tissue once the device is no longer necessary.

You, like me, may find the prospect of an alien object being absorbed into your brain tissue mildly terrifying. But when left in, the wires and metallic components of these devices make patients more susceptible to infection. Removing the device after it has served its purpose requires surgery, which always carries risks.

The miniaturized, wireless device was developed by a team of engineers, materials scientists, and neurosurgeons in America and South Korea. The device is composed of a temperature sensor and a pressure sensor, each integrated into a biodegradable silicon chip that sits on the surface of the brain, and the chip connects to a wireless transmitter on the outside of the skull.

The new technology is not groundbreaking in what it does, but in how it does it. The device is composed entirely of green-electronics, natural materials that are biodegradable and biocompatible. The shelf life on these green components is a few weeks, until they completely dissolve over the course of about a day.

Researchers tested the technology in rats and found no trace of the device after it was absorbed into the soft tissue. The team is now hoping to move forward in human clinical trials. And although it remains to be seen whether or not the device will make it to the medical supply market, it can surely boast the title of most eco-friendly brain monitoring technology.