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Low-Cost, Implantable Electronics Get Closer

Low-cost electronic devices that can be implanted in the body are getting closer to reality, thanks to work by researchers at Ohio State University.


(A silicon circuit
Coated with a protective layer and immersed
in fluid that mimicks human body chemistry.)

The project began when [Paul Berger, professor of electrical and computer engineering and physics at Ohio State] talked to researchers in Ohio Stateís Department of Biomedical Engineering, who wanted to build an insertable sensor to detect the presence of proteins that mark the first signs of organ rejection in the body. They were struggling to make a working protein sensor from gallium nitride.

ďWe already have sensors that would do a great job at detecting these proteins, but theyíre made out of silicon. So I wondered if we could come up with a coating that would protect silicon and allow it to function while it directly touched blood, bodily fluids or living tissue,Ē Berger said.

In the study, Bergerís team tested whether electrolytes could be blocked from entering silicon with a layer of aluminum oxide.

The researchers submerged the coated test sensors in fluid for up to 24 hours, removed them from the solution, and then ran a voltage across them to see if they were working properly. The tests showed that the oxide coating effectively blocked electrolytes from the solution so the sensors remained fully functional.

Once developed, a device using this technology could detect certain proteins that the body produces when itís just beginning to reject a transplanted organ. Doctors would insert a needle into the patientís body near the site of the implanted organ. Silicon sensors on the needle would detect the protein, and doctors would know how to tailor the patientís dosage of anti-rejection drugs based on the sensor readings.

Science fiction authors have long worked with the idea of electronic devices that have to function within the body - and at a cost consumers can afford. Consider the droud from Larry Niven's 1969 story Death by Ecstasy.

Also, In his 1968 award-winning novel Babel 17, Samuel R. Delany writes about decorative implants that could give you a small dragon toy tattoo that comes out of your shoulder.

"It's listed in your catalog as 5463," the Customs Officer declared. "I want it there." He clapped his left hand to his right shoulder.

The surgeon returned ... with a tray full of fragments. The only recognizable one was the front half of a miniature dragon with jeweled eyes, glittering sc ales, and opalescent wings: it was less than two inches long.

"When he's connected up to your nervous system, you'll be able to make him whistle, hiss, roar, flap his wings and spit sparks..."

From OSU via MedGadget

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