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article imageBone-like material makes for improved medical devices

By Tim Sandle     Aug 1, 2015 in Science
Scientists have created an approach for fitting medical devices in a better way with biological systems. For this the researchers were inspired by the way bone interfaces with tissues in the human body.
The newly developed devices are described as “skeleton-like silicon spicules.” Spicules are small needle-like anatomical structures that occur in organisms. These structures provided the inspiration for a different type of medical implant.
The spicules were prepared by a novel chemical process. The process was based on bone formation in living mammals. The reason for looking at this was because the way bone is naturally configured provides a solution for interacting materials between hard and soft substances. In our bodies, as bone forms it needs to connect and interact with softer body parts like tissues and muscle.
With this in mind the researchers set out to construct a medical device that could be composed of something soft and which could connect to an appropriate part of the body. The device would also need to be able to conduct power.
This 3D silicon mesostructure measures approximately 200 nanometers across its narrow dimension. It ...
This 3D silicon mesostructure measures approximately 200 nanometers across its narrow dimension. It is designed for integration with biological systems.
Courtesy of Bozhi Tian Group
Putting all of this together, the aim of the work was to create mesocopic three-dimensional semiconductors. These are types of medical devices that can use electronics to sense how the body is performing or responding and to even send signals to organs. The process of creating the devices is called 3D mesoscale lithography.
For the devices to function polymers need to interact with metals capable for conducting electricity. The optimal metal to use is gold, in the form of nanoparticles. These are tiny particles; it takes around 500 of them to span the width of a human hair.
The new material is said to enhance soft tissue function, meaning that it provides the basis for an implantable device that can interact with body parts. Such materials could also be used for drug delivery. Further trials are required before the device can be used for medical applications.
The research was led by Bozhi Tian, of the University of Chicago. The research has been published in the journal Science. The research is titled “Atomic gold–enabled three-dimensional lithography for silicon mesostructures.”
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