A team of engineers led by Tufts University has created smart medical thread using embedded sensors to monitor, collect, and wirelessly transmit patient data in real time. This new development in thread-based diagnostic devices (TDDs) will serve to continuously monitor patients’ health status, diagnose, and treat diseases.
In the past few years, with the help of sensor miniaturization, there has been a surge of developments in implantable diagnostic devices (IDDs) and smart wearable systems (SWSs) paving the way for a progressively changing landscape in health care. The cost for microfabrication of traditional IDD materials, such as polymide and parylene, can be high due to the need for special processing and clean room access. In contrast, cotton and synthetic thread is a readily available low-cost commodity that is both flexible and biocompatible.
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. 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.
The thread is fabricated from nanomaterials to perform electrochemical sensing. It employs nanoscale sensors, electronics, and microfluidics that when sutured into tissue will operate as a diagnostic tool. The smart thread sensors collect data measurements including pressure, stress, strain, temperature, pH, and glucose levels. These data points are wirelessly transmitted to a computer or mobile device and can help to determine if a wound is healing correctly or if infection may be present enabling prompt diagnosis and treatment.
Potential applications for the smart thread will include surgical implants and smart bandages. There is also potential for future integrations with other electronic components, including but not limited to capacitors, diodes, or transistors. Furthermore, the team intends to expand diagnostics capabilities for proteins, DNA, and biomarkers. The paper, A toolkit of thread-based microfluidics, sensors, and electronics for 3D tissue embedding for medical diagnostics, was recently published in the July 18th edition of Microsystems & Nanoengineering journal. To view the full paper click here.