Two years ago, Nexight developed a white paper for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) NanoEngineering for Medicine and Biology Steering Committee highlighting the greatest nanoengineering challenges biomedical scientists and engineers must solve together to overcome some of the most complex issues facing human health. Some of the key challenges identified in the white paper have been addressed by recent engineering advances in just the past few months:
Texas A&M engineers have developed new injectable “hydrogel” materials containing microparticles that act as either targeted drug delivery systems or biosensors to monitor a patient’s health. Instead of conventionally swallowing a pill prescribed by a doctor, a biocompatible polymer mesh known as “hydrogel” would be injected into the desired location within the body. The gel is a vehicle for microparticles containing a payload of drugs whose release can be controlled through chemistry alterations. Scientists also envision the microparticle capsules acting as biosensors, which would react to abnormalities in the body and help patients to monitor their health.
An engineer at Stanford recently invented a way to wirelessly transfer power to an array of electrical devices inserted in the human body. Using this technology, pacemakers could be recharged instead of expiring. Electrostimulator implants could be wirelessly triggered to stimulate nerves in patients suffering from chronic pain, rehabilitate stroke victims, or give paralysis patients control of their limbs. In addition to these applications, the ability to wirelessly power and charge electrical devices has implications for sensors and other technologies that have yet to be developed.
Scientists and war veterans created a device that plugs a gunshot wound in 15 seconds. With hemorrhaging as the leading cause of death on the battlefield, a team of researchers from RevMedx devised an alternative to the traditionally painful and not-always-successful practice of plugging wound cavities as deep as 5 inches with gauze bandages. The XStat device resembles a large syringe filled with special tiny sponges that are injected into the wound cavity. The sponges are biocompatible, sterile, and quickly expand to fill the entire cavity with enough pressure to stop the bleeding. They are even visible on x-ray images to ensure that doctors successfully remove all traces of sponges when a soldier requires surgery. RevMedx recently received FDA approval for the XStat device which may now be purchased and used by military medics.
The progress being made in the past few months is astounding. These innovative techniques and technologies represent a leap forward for significantly improving human health. Just imagine the progress that we will make in the coming months and years.