New studies point to biomedical innovations ahead for devices

 In Medical Product Design

Manufacturers of medical devices are always looking for fresh opportunities to advance product design and development. Technological advances continually open up possibilities for better meeting the needs of patients and improving medical user experience design. Today, new biomedical research suggests some of the exciting ways devices may continue to evolve in the years ahead.

Medical devices you can eat?

“It could be possible to create digestible medical devices with integrated sensors.”

Patients routinely undergo surgery to implant medical devices like pacemakers, but a project at Arizona State University is exploring the potential for creating products that can be simply ingested. As reported in the journal Advanced Material Technologies, a team led by Hanqing Jiang, a professor of mechanical engineering in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, built a toolkit of edible electronics. The researchers’ proof concept suggests it will be possible to create digestible medical devices with integrated sensors and wireless transmission capability.

Along the way through the patient’s system, these devices may be able to provide valuable readings, such as monitoring bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract in real time. To take the next steps, the engineers are exploring miniaturization and methods for slowing down digestion. The body currently consumes one of these devices within a few minutes, but they hope a special coating could make it possible to continue gathering readings for as long as two days.

Forming new materials from DNA

The Scripps Research Institute announced that chemists developed a method for modifying DNA nucleotides to create materials that could be used in medical products. Research published by chemistry professor Floyd Romesberg and postdoctoral student Tingjian Chen in Angewandte Chemie demonstrated that they could adapt the molecule that stores genetic information into a more stable form with a variety of applications. Their experimentation has led to control over the arrangement and replication of nucleotides and made it possible to create nanomaterials.

So far, the researchers have been able to create a water-absorbent hydrogel that may have a range of practical medical uses. Chen outlined those possibilities in a press release.

“We think this hydrogel can have applications ranging from novel forms of drug delivery to the growing of cells in three-dimensional cultures,” Chen said.

Providing lasting power to devices with a biological solar cell

A team at Binghampton University, part of the State University of New York system, unveiled a high-powered, miniaturized biological solar cell, publishing the research in the journal Lab on a Chip. The cells are specifically intended for lab-on-a-chip devices that provide multiple laboratory functions on one circuit and must have a clean, self-sustained source of energy. BSCs are a good choice for powering these devices since they rely on self-maintaining photosynthetic microorganisms to produce electricity.

The new cells outstrip past micro-BSCs in terms of power density, sustaining their output for 20 days rather than a few hours. This progress is important because it could make it possible to put lab-on-a-chip devices to work in remote regions with limited resources.

Researchers continue to explore new ideas for materials and power that could bring revolutionary progress in medical devices. Tracking medical product trends and the latest leaps forward in biomedical research may reveal what transformations are coming next for makers of devices.


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