Quirks & Quarks

Dissolvable brain implants to monitor swelling

Keeping tabs on brain injuries with implanted sensors that just melt away when no longer needed

Implantable devices to monitor brain injuries that don't need to be removed

This tiny implantable sensor will dissolve on its own (J Rogers)
One of the big challenges for modern medicine is coping with brain injuries from blunt force trauma. Following a car or workplace accident, a doctor needs to monitor your brain within a critical period following the injury, to see if your brain is swelling. If it's not caught in time, the swelling could lead to permanent brain damage.

The only way right now for doctors to monitor potential swelling is by surgically implanting sensors directly onto the brain, using cumbersome wires hooked directly up to a monitor. Then, once the critical period has passed, all of these things need to be surgically removed. But in the future, doctors might be able to keep tabs on the brain, using a system that would eventually just melt away.

Dr. John Rogers is a professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and head of a team that has developed dissolvable brain sensors.

Related Links

Article in The Atlantic
Paper in Nature by Dr. Rogers
- Washington University release