MPMN features research developments announced in August that have potential medical device applications. Examples of the technologies featured here include a slug-inspired medical adhesives, a neurosurgical robot equipped with steerable microneedles, and a technology that can expand the usefulness of CT imaging.
1. Slug-Inspired Adhesives
While medical adhesives have a significant number of applications, their use is limited because of their risk of ultimately failing as a result of exposure to body fluids. Stitches, which have been used for millennia, along with staples are commonly used to mend skin. Eventually, stitches and staples may be obsolete. Andrew Smith, an Ithaca College professor of biology.
Inspired by slugs and snails, along with mussels and barnacles, Smith is experimenting with a gel that can adhere to wet surfaces and can retain its bond when tissue is flexed or bent. “There would be no leakage or scarring,” he says.
In the lab, Smith and fellow researchers coax slugs to emit a defensive secretion that is a natural strong adhesive. Its binding power is influenced by the presence of metal metal including zinc, calcium, iron, and copper, which facilitate strong cross-links between natural polymers, thus stiffening it.
2. Novel Neural Probe Technology
Novel Neural Probe Technology
UC San Diego electrical engineering professor Shadi Dayeh, PhD is seeking to neural probes that can interface with individual brain cells, reading their electrical signals and conveying that information to either a prosthetic device or computer.
While still a theoretical technology, an electron beam writer recently acquired by the university could advance the research by enabling Dayeh to study tightly packed miniature sensors at a high resolution and signal acquisition.
The e-beam writer will also be used by UCSD bioengineering professor Todd Coleman, who will use it to help create brain-monitoring epidermal electronic devices.
3. Robot Equipped with Steerable Needles Combat Brain Clots
Robot Equipped with Steerable Needles Combat Brain Clots
Researchers at Vanderbilt University are developing a robot that uses steerable needles to treat blood clots while minimizing damage to the brain. At present, neurosurgeons are exceptionally cautious when treating excintracerebral hemorrhages. While reducing the size of the clots that causes them is beneficial, such procedures risk damaging surrounding tissue.
The aforementioned robot was designed to overcome these drawbacks. The device uses an active cannula comprised of a series of thin, nested tubes with various curvatures. The tubes can rotate, extend, and retract, enabling precise motion in a various directions, enabling it to follow a curved trajectory to conform to anatomy.
The device was able to remove 92% of clots in tests. The above image shows a model of a blood clot made from gelatin.
4. Efficient Tumor-Detecting Microfluidics
Efficient Tumor-Detecting Microfluidics
A microfluidic advance could enable rapid “liquid biopsies,” which can be used for cancer screenings and diagnostics with a small blood sample. The brainchild of Chinese scientists, a novel microfluidic chip rapidly segregates and can capture live circulating tumor cells in the blood. While other researchers have developed similar devices for blood-based detection of tumor cells, they have been either too slow or inaccurate for clinical use.
The researchers detail their work in Biomicrofluidics.
The above image from Wikipedia illustrates, from left to right, a erythrocyte, thrombocyte, and leukocyte.
5. Full-Color Infrared Tomography
Full-Color Infrared Tomography
U.S. researchers have merged Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy with computed tomography (CT), creating a new 3-D modality that reveals molecular-level chemical information in biological specimens. The technique could be used to color-code images according to their chemical makeup. “We’ve all seen pretty 3-D renderings of medical scans with colors, for example bone-colored bones, but that’s simply an artistic choice,” explains Michael Martin of Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source. “Now we can spectrally identify the specific types of minerals within a piece of bone and assign a color to each type within the 3D reconstructed image.
Merging CT and FTIR yields a full-color spectro-microtomogram with substantial data to support spectral segregation analysis methods including clustering, neural networks, and principal-component analysis.
6. Heart Pump Featuring a Behind-the-Ear Power Connector
LVAD with a Behind-the-Ear Power Connector
As many as one third of heart failure patients with left ventricular assist devices experience problems with infections. The pumps are typically powered via a cord connected at a site located at the abdomen. Researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center are investigating a different approach: tunneling an internal power cable through the neck to a socket located behind the ear. The placement is similar to where cochlear implant electrode wires are placed.
Scientists at the University are comparing the new electrode design against traditional LVAD designs. If the cohort with the behind-the-ear fares better, it may ultimately replace the design with an abdomen port. In fact, the model has already been cleared for use in Europe.