Each year in the United States, approximately 50,000 people lose their lives to traumatic brain injury. From bullets to blood clots, these types of injuries cause severe damage in the brain that can prove to be fatal if not attended to promptly. In order to treat a patient in the appropriate manner, doctors need to be able to monitor the pressure in the brain. Unfortunately, the tools currently used to monitor patients are large and need to be removed once the patient is deemed to be recovered.
In a search for a better tool, Doctor Rory Murphy, a neurosurgeon, developed a dissolvable sensor. Together with a team of engineers, Murphy has made a sensor that is thinner than the tip of a needle. Maybe more importantly, the sensor can be left in the brain, taking readings over days, and dissolves on its own. It quite simply never needs to be removed from the body because the body absorbs it.
The pressure sensor is made from a membrane made of material that is typically used in medical devices and suspended within a frame of magnesium and silicone. The fluid that surrounds the sensor after it is inserted into the human body causes the membrane to bend. This, in turn, changes the resistance of the silicon sensor. After a few days’ time, the wrapping of the sensor dissolves and the tiny mechanism is absorbed by the body.
Tests in rats have gone well, and the team is planning on testing the sensor in pigs next. If the sensors continue to do well in tests, the team plans to begin human trials in three to five years. In the meantime, the team will continue to make improvements to the device, including the power and connectivity of the sensors. The team also wants to develop a sensor that can last in the body beyond a few days. The goal is for a sensor