Surgical sutures go high-tech

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Needing stitches in a nasty tear brought on by a household accident is never pleasant but technology has made its way over to the humble suture with the inclusion of sensors that are able to monitor wounds and perhaps even speed up the healing process.

New smart sutures, which were reported by journal Small, have been tested on animals. The sutures make use of ultrathin silicon sensors which are attached to silk or polymer strips. These strips can be threaded onto needles and testing has shown that they will handle being placed through skin and knotted without degrading the performance of the sensor.

The electronic stitches are able to monitor the temperature of the wound, signalling if the wound is above room temperature (which is a sign of infection). The sensors are also capable of transmitting heat to the area which aids the healing process.

Inventor John Rodgers of the University of Illinois has other, most ambitious goals in mind for the electronic stitches, saying “Ultimately, the most value would be when you can release drugs from them in a programmed way.”

The sutures are composed of a thin silicon film, electrodes and wiring placed on top of the polymer or silk base and is sealed with an epoxy. Gold filaments form the heating elements in the sutures and either a silicon diode or platinum nanomembrane resistor is used as a temperature gauge. Animal tests have yet to be conducted to test the heating elements and at the moment the team involved in working on the smart sutures is looking into ways to make the technology operate wirelessly.

Source: Technology Review

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