Micromotors Powered by Bacteria

Researchers are using genetically engineered E. coli to power micromotors, with the swimming bacteria causing the motors to rotate in a similar fashion to a river rotating a watermill.

“Our design combines a high rotational speed with an enormous reduction in fluctuation when compared to previous attempts based on wild-type bacteria and flat structures,” says Roberto Di Leonardo, co-author of the new research. “We can produce large arrays of independently controlled rotors that use light as the ultimate energy source. These devices could serve one day as cheap and disposable actuators in microrobots for collecting and sorting individual cells inside miniaturized biomedical laboratories.”

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New research out of the University of Florida shows a new 3D printing technology that could lead to strong, flexible, affordable medical implants.

Through this new process for the use of 3D printing and soft silicone, the researchers believe items that millions of patients use could be more easily manufactured, ranging from implantable bands to soft catheters to slings.

This from the University of Florida:

These kinds of devices are currently molded, which can take days or even weeks to create customized parts designed to fit an individual patient. The 3D-printing method cuts that time to hours, potentially saving lives. What’s more, extremely small and complex devices, such as drainage tubes containing pressure-sensitive valves, simply cannot be molded in one step.

The new method allows them to be printed.

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From artificial limbs to cochlear implants, biomedical advancements are opening up new opportunities for health care. Now, researchers from the University of Delaware are working to further improve the lifetime and effectiveness of those biomedical devices by improving communication between the technology and neural tissue.

In order to improve the devices, researchers worked to develop a direct interfacing material to improve communication between the device and the body. For this, the team focused on a conjugated polymer known as PEDOT.

Video credit: Leah Dodd/ University of Delaware

This from University of Delaware:

Compared to other methods, surface modification through electro-grafting takes just minutes. Another advantage is that a variety of materials can be used as the conducting substrate, including gold, platinum, glassy carbon, stainless steel, nickel, silicon, and metal oxides.

Read the full article.

“Our results suggest that this is an effective means to selectively modify microelectrodes with highly adherent and highly conductive polymer coatings as direct neural interfaces,” says David Martin, lead researcher.

Image: Kim et al.

Image: Kim et al.

A team of researchers recently developed a next-generation medical wearable that will make your Fitbit look archaic.

A new study details the development of a small, stretchy sensor that monitors heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and UV radiation exposure – all without batteries or wires.

The patch, which relies on wirelessly transmitted power, uses near-field communication to activate LED lights. Essentially, the energy to power the device is harnessed from wasted energy emitted from surrounding electronics such as smartphones or tablets. The lights then penetrate the skin and reflect back to the sensor, transmitting data to a nearby device. In this application, radio frequencies are used to both transmit communications and provide an energy source.

Without the need for a battery, researchers were able to create an ultra-thin sensor.

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HIV and hepatitis C are among the leading causes of worldwide death. According to amfAR, an organization dedicated to eradicating the spread of HIV/AIDS through innovative research, nearly 37 million people are currently living with HIV. Of those 37 million, one third become co-infected with hepatitis C.

The threat of HIV and hepatitis C

The regions hit the hardest by this co-infection tend to be developing parts of the world, such as sub-Saharan Africa and Central and East Asia.

While these developing regions have measures to diagnosis HIV and hepatitis C, the rapid point-of-care tests used are typically unaffordable or unreliable.

An electrochemical solution

A group from McGill University is looking to change that with a recently developed, paper-based electrochemical platform with multiplexing and telemedicine capabilities that may enable low-cost, point-of-care diagnosis for HIV and hepatitis C co-infections within serum samples.

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Leveraging electrochemistry to beat diabetes

World Health DayThis year’s World Health Day focuses on diabetes and reducing the burden of a disease that affects over 420 million people worldwide. To put that in perspective, that number rested at 180 million in 1980. It is expected to more than double within the next 20 years.

So how can we beat diabetes? Well, electrochemistry has the potential to play a rather large role in halting the rise of this disease that kills 1.5 million people each year.

A pioneer in diabetes management

Meet Adam Heller, electrochemist and inventor of the FreeStyle and FreeStyle Libre systems; glucose monitoring devices that changed diabetes management technology.

“People were pricking their fingers and taking large blood drops,” Heller, ECS honorary member, said. “It was painful: get a strip, touch it, get a blood sample, measure the glycemia (the blood glucose concentration).”

Around 20 years ago, Heller decided to address the pressing issue of how to accurately, easily, and affordably monitor blood glucose levels. As an electrochemist, he took his work in the electrical wiring of redox enzymes and began to apply it to glucose and diabetes management.

“[My son] observed that if he pricks his skin in the arm, he can painlessly get a much smaller sample of blood,” Heller, who was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation for his efforts in diabetes management technology, said. “By pricking his finger, he got, painfully, a large drop of blood. So he asked me, ‘Can we make a sensor for such a small sample of blood?’ I knew that it could be done if I used a small enough electrode.”

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Building a Biosensor from Bubblegum

What does Doublemint gum have to do with biomedical research? Apparently, a lot more than would be expected.

A combined research effort from the University of Manitoba and the Manitoba Children’s Hospital has recently created a stretchy, highly sensitive biosensor using chewed gum and carbon nanotubes.

After the gum in chewed for about 30 minutes, it is then cleaned with ethanol and laced with carbon nanotubes. The biosensor has the potential to monitor berating patterns and blood flow.

Even more impressive, the cost for the sensor come in under $3. Researchers believe the cheap, highly flexible biosensor could aid in a multitude of health care applications.

PS: Working in sensor science and technology? Make sure to check out our sensor symposia at the 229th ECS Meeting! Submit your abstract today!

Digestible Batteries to Power Edible Electronics

Since the 1970s, biomedical engineers have been looking for a way to develop a “smart pill” that can monitor and treat ailments electronically. Since then, breakthroughs such as the camera pill have come about—allowing those in the medical field to perform more complex surgeries and study how drugs are broken down.

While we have biologically understood the concept of edible electronics for some time now, researchers have not been able to nail down the appropriate materials that should be used in such an application as to not cause internal damage.

“Smart Pill” to Sense Problems

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University are putting fourth their proposal to this question in the journal Trends in Biotechnology, which could yield edible electronic technology that is safe for consumption.

“The primary risk is the intrinsic toxicity of these materials, for example, if the battery gets mechanically lodged in the gastrointestinal tract—but that’s a known risk. In fact, there is very little unknown risk in these kinds of devices,” says Christopher Bettinger, a professor in materials science and engineering and author of the study. “The breakfast you ate this morning is only in your GI tract for about 20 hours—all you need is a battery that can do its job for 20 hours and then, if anything happens, it can just degrade away.”

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Lab-on-a-Chip Changes Clinical Practice

Biomedical engineers are getting closer to perfecting novel lab-on-a-chip technology. The latest breakthrough from Rutgers University shows promising results for significant cost cutbacks on life-saving tests for disorders ranging from HIV to Lyme disease.

This from Rutgers University:

The new device uses miniaturized channels and values to replace “benchtop” assays – tests that require large samples of blood or other fluids and expensive chemicals that lab technicians manually mix in trays of tubes or plastic plates with cup-like depressions.

Read the full article.

Changing Clinical Practice 

The new development builds on previous lab-on-a-chip research, such as the device from Brigham Young University to improve and simplify the speed of detection of prostate cancer and kidney disease. Researchers from Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne have also propelled this novel research with their lab-on-a-chip device that can make the study of tumor cells significantly more efficient.

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Hybrid Biomaterial to Change Clinical Practice

Fig1-Mayo-Mao-NEWS-WEBResearchers have developed completely new nanowires by combining synthetic DNA and protein.

Through combining these two promising synthetic biological materials to form nanowires, the door to promising applications requiring biomaterials has been opened.

While both synthetic DNA and synthetic protein structures show great potential in the areas of direct delivery of cancer drugs and virus treatment customization, the hybridization of materials provides even more advantages.

“If your material is made up of several different kinds of components, it can have more functionality. For example, protein is very versatile; it can be used for many things, such as protein–protein interactions or as an enzyme to speed up a reaction. And DNA is easily programmed into nanostructures of a variety of sizes and shapes,” said first author of the study, Yun (Kurt) Mou.

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