Scientists from Tufts University and the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana have developed remote-controlled electronic implants capable of treating infections and then dissolving into the body after completing their mission.
Each device is made up of a silk protein substrate, on top of which a magnesium resistor and power-receiving coil are protected in a waterproof envelope consisting of more silk.
Essentially, the devices can be implanted at any infection site, where they heat and medicate the affected tissue before dissolving.
In their tests, scientists from both schools implanted the devices at Staphylococcus aureus infection sites in mice with great success.
In order to wirelessly activate the coils of the electronic implants within the device, an external transmitter was used to heat the coils up and activate them. Two sets of 10-minute heat treatments were performed on the mice using this technique.
When the treated tissue of the mice was examined 24 hours later, all the surrounding tissue looked normal and the infection was completely eradicated.
The electronic implants themselves dissolved in merely 15 days, a time period which can be adjusted depending on the infection and treatment required.
In vitro experiments performed by researchers, where a a layer of silk containing the antibiotic ampicillin was added to the top of the devices, successfully killed both E. coli and S. aureus bacteria.
Tufts professor of biomedical engineering, Fiorenzo Omenetto, said, “This is an important demonstration step forward for the development of on-demand medical devices that can be turned on remotely to perform a therapeutic function in a patient and then safely disappear after their use, requiring no retrieval. These wireless strategies could help manage post-surgical infection, for example, or pave the way for eventual ‘Wi-Fi’ drug delivery.”