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article imageStretchy optical fibers used to assess for signs of diseases

By Tim Sandle     Oct 18, 2016 in Science
A special type of optical fiber, made from a hydrogel, has been developed. This rubber-like device can detect diseases early and send an alert signal.
The new device is biocompatible and it can be stretched and pulled in almost any direction. The flexibility comes from the fact the device is compered almost entirely of water, which relates to its hydrogel properties.
A hydrogel is a network of polymer chains that are hydrophilic. Such gels are often found as a colloidal gel in which water is the dispersion medium. Hydrogels also possess a degree of flexibility very similar to natural tissue. With this one common use of hydrogels is as scaffolds in tissue engineering.
The flexible properties would allow the optical fiber to bend and twist with the natural motions of the body, without breaking. The development brings together the latest research into pliable hydrogels together with new developments in flexible electronics.
The aim is for such a device to be implanted into the body and to either provide an alert about a disease risk, by lighting up, or even to attempt to eliminate certain pathogens by delivering therapeutic pulses of laser light. The success or otherwise would be partly based on the device being located within a specific region of the body. The initial aim is to develop the optical fiber for use in the brain, to provide effective stimulation and therapy.
MovEnergy (@movenergy2) "A biocompatible and highly stretchable optical fiber has now been created from hydrogel -- an elastic, rubbery..."
The light-related effects are related to the science of optogenetics. Within this field, light is used to activate cells and there has been considerable success in using light to activate neutrons in the brain. The optical fiber draws its light from micro-sixed LED lights, contained within each strand of the fiber.
Trials are set to begin using the optical fibers for long-term diagnostics, to optically monitor tumors or inflammation in the brain.
Harvind Rai (@harvindrai) "Implantable Optical Fiber Could Detect Disease: An extremely elastic optical hydrogel fiber from the team."
The development of the device was a collaborative effort between scientists from MIT and Harvard Medical School. The research into the optical fiber has been published in the journal Advanced Materials, with the associated paper headed “Highly Stretchable, Strain Sensing Hydrogel Optical Fibers.”
More about Optical fibers, Disease, Brain, Pathology, hydrogel
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