Team Develops Wireless, Dissolvable Sensors to Monitor Brain

A team of neurosurgeons and engineers has developed wireless brain sensors that monitor intracranial pressure and temperature and then are absorbed by the body, negating the need for surgery to remove the devices.

A team of neurosurgeons and engineers has developed wireless brain sensors that monitor intracranial pressure and temperature and then are absorbed by the body, negating the need for surgery to remove the devices.

Such implants, developed by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 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. Their findings are published online Jan. 18 in the journal Nature.

“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.

“With advanced materials and device designs, we demonstrated that it is possible to create electronic implants that offer high performance and clinically relevant operation in hardware that completely resorbs into the body after the relevant functions are no longer needed,” Rogers said. “This type of bio-electric medicine has great potential in many areas of clinical care.”

The researchers tested the sensors in baths of saline solution that caused them to dissolve after a few days. Next, they tested the devices in the brains of laboratory rats.

Having shown that the sensors are accurate and that they dissolve in the solution and in the brains of rats, the researchers now are planning to test the technology in patients.

“In terms of the major challenges involving size and scale, we’ve already crossed some key bridges,” said co-senior author Wilson Z. Ray, MD, assistant professor of neurological and orthopaedic surgery at Washington University.

In patients with traumatic brain injuries, neurosurgeons attempt to decrease the pressure inside the skull using medications. If pressure cannot be reduced sufficiently, patients often undergo surgery. The new devices could be placed into the brain at multiple locations during such operations.

“The ultimate strategy is to have a device that you can place in the brain — or in other organs in the body — that is entirely implanted, intimately connected with the organ you want to monitor and can transmit signals wirelessly to provide information on the health of that organ, allowing doctors to intervene if necessary to prevent bigger problems,” Murphy said. “And then after the critical period that you actually want to monitor, it will dissolve away and disappear.”

Funding for this research comes from the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), grant number F31 MH101956. Additional funding comes from the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

 

 

More in Clinical

Clinical  May 04

The Pill, Prescriptions, Pharmacists & Physicians

‘The Pill’ made headlines and stirred up controversy in the late 1950s and early 1960s as the nation debated whether or not women…

Clinical  Apr 21

The Bidens at AACR

On April 20, Vice President Joe Biden and Jill Biden, EdD, addressed over 4,000 attendees during the American Association for Cancer…

Clinical  Apr 12

Zika Legislation Headed to President's Desk

On April 12, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) made the following statement as Senate health committee-passed legislation to spur…

Business  Apr 07

Planning for Long-Term Care

“A man who procrastinates in his choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.” – Hunter S. Thompson

Clinical  Apr 07

Plan to Address Mental Health Crisis

A bipartisan U.S. Senate group looks to ease the burden on Americans suffering from mental health and substance abuse disorders…

Clinical  Apr 06

Artificial Intelligence, Real Results

Developers have created a new tool that combines predictive analytics with artificial intelligence to improve outcomes and decrease…

Clinical  Apr 06

Surgeons Test Technology with Potential to Expand Lung Transplant Donor Pool

Organ transplant patient Michele Coleman receives a follow-up exam a few months after surgeons at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis gave her a new set of lungs.

Clinical  Mar 29

AMA on Ending Opioid Epidemic

Opioid and heroin abuse have skyrocketed in America prompting new guidelines and regulations from the CDC and FDA. The AMA weighed in…

Clinical  Mar 28

Cells Have Strategies to Get Back on Track After Replication Stress

In a recent review paper published in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, Saint Louis University scientist Alessandro Vindigni, Ph.D., describes the strategies cells use when their DNA faces replication stress, challenges that may derail a…

Clinical  Mar 03

Findings may guide design of new drugs

Genetic errors identified in a new study led by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis may reduce risk of heart attacks…

Business  Feb 29

‘Trigger Tool’ Available for Hospitals and SNFs

How can ‘trigger tools’ identify adverse events?

Clinical  Feb 29

Cancer Stats & Facts

Each year the American Cancer Society releases the latest data as a litmus test of where the nation stands in the fight against cancer.

Clinical  Feb 24

Technology may improve treatment for deadly brain cancer

Using a laser probe, neurosurgeons at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have opened the brain’s protective…

Clinical  Feb 23

Ending the Opioid Epidemic

Read the Feb. 22 joint statement by National Governors Association Health & Human Services Committee Chair Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker; Vice Chair New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan; American Medical Association Chair-Elect Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA

Business  Feb 08

Challenging Population Health Management Issues

The nation’s leading forum on innovations in population health is slated for March 7-9 in Philadelphia.

Clinical  Feb 08

Prevent, Protect, Improve

Healthways and Dr. Dean Ornish have teamed up on a secondary intervention proven to not only treat heart disease but also to reverse…

Clinical  Feb 08

The 7th Character

How important is the 7th character for Medicare/Medicaid claims?

Clinical  Feb 04

Scientists More Effectively Control Pain by Targeting Nerve Cell’s Interior

New research indicates that the location of receptors that transmit pain signals IS important in how big or small a pain signal will…

Business  Jan 26

Taken for Granted: A New Era in Care – the New SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital

Patient-centered design will enhance the new state-of-the-art academic facilities.

Clinical  Jan 26

New Outpatient Care Center Under Construction in South St. Louis County

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Barnes-Jewish Hospital (BJH) are building a new outpatient facility in south…

Clinical  Jan 26

Bhayani Named Holekamp Family Chair in Urology

Sam Bhayani, MD, who recently was appointed chief medical officer of the Faculty Practice Plan at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has been named the Holekamp Family Chair in Urology at Barnes-Jewish Hospital (BJH) and the School

  Load more content