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Designing New Soft Bioelectronic Mesh

Air Force Medical

Scientists from the Center for Nanoparticle Research, part of the Institute for Basic Science, have developed a new soft bioelectronic mesh. The device is both wearable and implantable; it is capable of measuring electrophysiological signals, and and can apply thermal and electrical stimulations. Scientists believe that this design could be used for pain relief, prosthetic motor control, and rehabilitation.

This is the first soft implant with the ability to record cardiac activity in multiple points of a pig’s heart. It can provide information on muscle and cardiac dysfunctions, and as such could be instrumental to the future of bioelectronics. The new device has been used on human skin to record electrical activity in the heart and muscles. Since the device is soft and stretchable, it can easily follow the natural contours of the human body. It can simultaneously monitor electromyogram signals while sending electrical and or thermal stimulations, which could be used for therapeutic purposes.

In addition, scientists have created a customized lower mesh capable of fitting over the lower part of the pig heart. Once wrapped around the heart, the implant is able to read signals coming from the whole organ. This makes it possible for the device to identify potential legions and aid in recovery. The mesh remains stable during repetitive heart movements, which means it will not interfere with the pumping activity of a heart.

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The stretchable and conductive patch is made with gold-coated silver nanowires mixed with a specific type of rubber. The rubber is known as polystyrene-butadiene-styrene (SBS), and differs from traditional models which have limited biomedical applications. This is because conventional conductive rubbers are silver wire-based, and silver is toxic to the human body. The gold sheath on the nanowires prevents silver from leaving, as well as corrosion caused by air and bodily fluids.

“We took advantage of silver’s high conductivity, SBS’ stretchability, and gold’s high biocompatibility. Finding the right proportion of each material was the key to success.”

HYEON Taeghwan, director of the Center and corresponding co-author

Scientists plan to continue research on this new mesh. They intend to maximize the conductivity and stretchability even further by developing non-toxic materials. Additionally, they believe the mesh may have a therapeutic effect for those suffering from cardiac disease.

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