New ‘smart’ thread paves way for next-gen implantable diagnostics

Washington D.C, Jul 18 : A team of researchers has invented a smart thread that collects diagnostic data when sutured into tissue. Researchers led by Tufts University engineers integrated nano-scale sensors, electronics and microfluidics into threads, ranging from simple cotton to sophisticated synthetics, that can be sutured through multiple layers of tissue to gather diagnostic data wirelessly in real time. The research suggests that the thread-based diagnostic platform could be an effective substrate for a new generation of implantable diagnostic devices and smart wearable systems. The researchers used a variety of conductive threads that were dipped in physical and chemical sensing compounds and connected to wireless electronic circuitry to create a flexible platform that they sutured into tissue in rats as well as in vitro. The threads collected data on tissue health (e.g. pressure, stress, strain and temperature), pH and glucose levels that can be used to determine such things as how a wound is healing, whether infection is emerging, or whether the body's chemistry is out of balance. The results were transmitted wirelessly to a cell phone and computer. The three-dimensional platform is able to conform to complex structures such as organs, wounds or orthopedic implants. "The ability to suture a thread-based diagnostic device intimately in a tissue or organ environment in three dimensions adds a unique feature that is not available with other flexible diagnostic platforms," said corresponding author Sameer Sonkusale. Sonkusale added, "We think thread-based devices could potentially be used as smart sutures for surgical implants, smart bandages to monitor wound healing, or integrated with textile or fabric as personalized health monitors and point-of-care diagnostics." "By contrast, thread is abundant, inexpensive, thin and flexible, and can be easily manipulated into complex shapes," said first author Pooria Mostafalu, adding "Additionally, analytes can be delivered directly to tissue by using thread's natural wicking properties." The study appears in Microsystems and Nanoengineering.