Researchers have developed a smart surgical thread that monitors the healing wound in real time and can wirelessly alert physicians to any chemical imbalances in the patient's body.
Developed by researchers from Tufts University in the US, the thread is equipped with nano-scale sensors and is connected to a wireless electronic circuit. The team has already tested the thread on a group of rats with encouraging results.
"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," said Sameer Sonkusale, corresponding author of a paper published in the journal Microsystems & Nanoengineering.
"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."
During the experiments, the smart thread reliably transmitted data about pressure, strain and temperature, as well as pH and glucose levels, to the researchers’ smartphones and computers.
Being able to continuously monitor these parameters would alert physicians to the earliest signs of infection in wounds, allowing them to take timely action.
The smart thread of the Tufts team is the first diagnostic device allowing monitoring parameters through layers of tissue. Previously, researchers experimented with two-dimensional devices, which could only be attached to the surface of the skin. Unlike these devices, the smart thread is based on a cheap and abundant material.
"The thread is abundant, inexpensive, thin and flexible and can be easily manipulated into complex shapes," said Pooria Mostafalu, first author of the paper, who worked on the project during his doctoral studies. "Additionally, analytes can be delivered directly to tissue by using thread's natural wicking properties."
The researchers have yet to examine long-term bio-compatibility of the device. In future they hope to be able to fine-tune the thread to meet the specific needs of individual cases.