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Surprising Science

Biomedical Smart Stitches Detect Infections & Speed Healing

Medical engineers have successfully lined surgical stitches with silicon sensors that can detect infections and apply heat to wounds, a known method of shortening recovery time. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Researchers have successfully coated surgical stitches in biomedical devices that can monitor for infection and aid in the healing process by applying heat to wounds, a known method for shortening recovery time. “The electronic sutures, which contain ultrathin silicon sensors integrated on polymer or silk strips, can be threaded through needles, and in animal tests researchers were able to lace them through skin, pull them tight, and knot them without degrading the devices.” The silicon strips used in the stitches are flexible and connected with gold wires just a few hundred nanometers thick. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Engineers behind the technology believe they have just scratched the surface of its medical potential. By coating the threads with drug-infused polymers, for example, an electrical pulse could be used to release disease-fighting chemicals. “Ultimately, the most value would be when you can release drugs from them in a programmed way,” said Professor John Rogers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The technology is already being commercialized by a Cambridge, Mass., start up co-founded by Rogers himself, which plans to place the smart sutures in inflatable catheters and medical tattoos. 

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