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Degradable Medical Implants

October 22, 2012

Researchers are developing temporary electronic implants that can be absorbed by the body.



Degradable medical implants.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Scientists have developed a new kind of biodegradable electronics, which could be safe enough to use in medical implants. Tufts University biomedical engineer Fiorenzo Omenetto is on the team. He says there are many potential applications for electronic implants that eventually break down in the body. For instance, a post-operative infection detector.

FIORENZO OMENETTO (Tufts University):

It monitors the presence of the bacteria, alerts whether there’s a surgical site infection, and then does not need to be retrieved.

Their electrodes use magnesium, which is both conductive and naturally found in the body, and are made from biocompatible silicon and silk proteins.  In mice, infection monitors made from the material both did their job and disappeared after the planned amount of time. The technology could be useful not only in medicine, but also in reducing waste and pollution from consumer electronics. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.