Brain Sensor Dissolves After Weeks Without Surgery

Researchers at Huazhong University of Science and Technology developed a brain sensor composed of hydrogel that can be injected in the brain.

Researchers at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China have developed a brain sensor composed of hydrogel that can be injected into the brain using a needle, potentially changing the way brain health is monitored.

Design and Functionality

The new sensor, small enough to be administered without surgery, is designed to dissolve harmlessly within weeks after fulfilling its monitoring functions.

The sensor, a mere 2 millimeters in width—comparable to the size of a rice grain—employs a unique structure crafted by Jianfeng Zang and his team at Huazhong University of Science and Technology. Known as a “metagel,” this sensor contains air columns that reflect ultrasound waves to monitor internal changes in the brain such as temperature and pressure.

Jianfeng Zang explains, “No wires or electronics are needed. It’s almost like the metagel is acting as a tiny acoustic mirror that changes its reflection in response to its environment,” allowing for real-time monitoring of critical brain conditions without the need for invasive surgical procedures.

Testing and Results

The hydrogel sensors have undergone testing in animal models, where they have successfully measured various parameters, including pressure, temperature, pH levels, and blood flow. Conducted on rats and pigs, the tests have shown results comparable to those from traditional wired probes.

In parallel, the sensor is designed to break down into innocuous components like water and carbon dioxide within four to five weeks, making it a temporary implant with minimal long-term impact.

Expert Insights

Though the technology shows promising applications in monitoring traumatic brain injuries and neurological conditions such as epilepsy, experts like Jules Magda of the University of Utah highlight the need for further testing.

“As far as I know, this is the first wireless sensor that can be used to monitor conditions within the body without requiring any surgery,” says Magda, stressing the importance of ensuring the non-toxicity of the dissolved materials.

The initial tests indicate minimal swelling or immune response in animal subjects, but as Zang notes, “long-term testing in larger animals is still necessary to show that the metagels perform reliably and safely before we can begin human clinical trials.”

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