'Smart' Thread Collects Real-Time Diagnostic Data
Tufts University engineers headed a research team that integrated nano-sized sensors and electronics into simple threads.
A team of researchers headed by Tufts University engineers have added nano-sized sensors to simple threads that can be sutured through multiple layers of tissue to gather diagnostic data in real time, according to a university news release following publication of a paper on the work in the journal Microsystems & Nanoengineering.
The release says the team "used a variety of conductive threads that were dipped in physical and chemical sensing compounds and connected to wireless electronic circuitry to create a flexible platform that they sutured into tissue in rats as well as in vitro. The threads collected data on tissue health (e.g. pressure, stress, strain and temperature), pH and glucose levels that can be used to determine such things as how a wound is healing, whether infection is emerging, or whether the body's chemistry is out of balance. The results were transmitted wirelessly to a cell phone and computer," it said, adding that the 3-D platform can conform to organs, wounds, or orthopedic implants.
Tufts' Patrick Collins reported that the early results "raise the possibility of optimizing patient-specific treatments" and show that using thread is a more flexible and less expensive option than substrates for implantable devices.
"The ability to suture a thread-based diagnostic device intimately in a tissue or organ environment in three dimensions adds a unique feature that is not available with other flexible diagnostic platforms," said Sameer Sonkusale, Ph.D., corresponding author on the paper and director of the interdisciplinary Nano Lab in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Tufts School of Engineering, told Collins. "We think thread-based devices could potentially be used as smart sutures for surgical implants, smart bandages to monitor wound healing, or integrated with textile or fabric as personalized health monitors and point-of-care diagnostics."
The paper's authors include Pooria Mostafalu, Ph.D., who was a doctoral student at Tufts when he worked on the project and is now a postdoctoral research fellow with the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, as well as Kyle A. Alberti and Qiaobing Xu, both of the Tufts University Department of Biomedical Engineering; Mohsen Akbari and Ali Khademhosseini, both of Harvard Medical School's Biomaterials Innovation Research Center, the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and Technology and the Wyss Institute. Their work was supported by a National Science Foundation grant.