The Magic of ‘Transient Electronics’
Hot on the heels of my incision-free surgery post comes this news about a new wave of dissolvable electronic implants based on silk.
Why would you want to implant a dissolvable circuit in your body? Because unlike dissolvable stitches, electronics can actually do things: monitor chemicals, warm tissues, even zap unwanted pathogens. The best part: when these devices’ usefulness has vanished, so do the circuits. Here’s Scientific American:
A flexible device that is just nanometers thick can fight post-surgical infections or even capture images—until its work is done, when it vanishes right on cue. “These electronics are there when you need them, and after they’ve served their purpose, they disappear,” Yonggang Huang, an engineer at Northwestern University, said in a prepared statement. These so-called transient electronics have already been demonstrated to work—and disappear—in rats. These new electronics can be powered wirelessly via induction coils.
It is an exciting frontier, and one that will almost certainly lead to a crop of new microscopic devices that can help you without requiring surgery to remove.
As a sinus surgeon, I am especially interested in the size of these implants, as they could theoretically be used to fight infection in the tissues of the sinuses without any need for antibiotics. They are also a nice way to reduce the problem of leftover medical materials, and a good reminder that we are just scratching the surface of medical materials technology.