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Wireless Dissolvable Implants Could Help Relieve Pain, Re-Grow Bone

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A century or so ago, even minor surgical procedures carried enormous risk, often resulting in death. According to some medical experts, we could see the return of those days unless we find a way to deal with superbugs – the popular term for antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A solution may be on the way, with potential benefits including pain relief and bone growth stimulation, the BBC reports.

The concept revolves around remotely controlled dissolvable implants that are placed into wounds and prevent infection by killing bacteria in the old-fashioned way: through heat. The amount of warmth sufficient to destroy bacteria without harming tissue is quite small. And once these tiny heaters have done their job, they dissolve into body fluids without causing any discomfort.

These bio-absorbable electronic circuits are the creation of a team led by John Rogers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Rogers and his colleagues have already developed biodegradable flexible circuits and electronic devices for direct application onto the skin. However, getting the circuits successfully working via wireless control is vital for numerous medical applications. In addition, using radio waves to control the circuits and power them eliminates the need for implanting batteries in the body.

As Rogers points out, killing bacteria would be just one of the things bio-absorbable RF electronic implants could do. They could also serve as nerve stimulants and thus relieve pain, as well as stimulate bone growth. It has long been established that the latter can be achieved through applying electrodes on the skin or placing them directly on the bone.