Thursday, October 11, 2012

Medical Devices that Dissolve in Your Body

Excerpted from "Scientists Create Tiny Medical Devices that Dissolve in Your Body," Time, by Malcolm Ritter. September 27, 2012--As consumers we want our electronic gadgets to be durable. But as patients, we might want them to dissolve — inside our bodies. Scientists reported Thursday that they succeeded in creating tiny medical devices sealed in silk cocoons that did the work they were designed for, then dissolved in the bodies of lab mice. It’s an early step in a technology that may hold promise, not only for medicine, but also for disposal of electronic waste.

Doctors already use implants that dispense drugs or provide electrical stimulation, but they don’t dissolve. The new work is aimed at making devices that do their jobs as long as needed and then just dissolved, without need for surgical removal or risk of long-term side effects. In the experiment, the devices — which look like tiny computer chips — were designed to generate heat, a potential strategy for fighting infection after surgery by killing germs, said John Rogers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne, an author of the study.

Someday for people, similar devices might be programmed to monitor the body and release drugs accordingly, or produce electric current to accelerate bone healing, Rogers said. The researchers used the protective cocoon envelope because silk can be processed to stay intact for varying periods of time — from seconds to weeks and potentially for years, he said. The device’s circuitry itself was built from other materials that degrade in the body, such as magnesium and silicon. Click here to read full story

Thomas Eppes, MD CMDA Member Thomas Eppes, MD: "The era of nanotechnology is quickly approaching. Studies such as the one discussed above show us that scientist and physicians may do many incredible and wonderful things in the future in the name of health. The future seems bright and endless.

“Where there is potential for good, just around the corner is potential for disaster. Each and every medicine, procedure, surgery and even counseling session has an equal opportunity to go ‘bad.’ One only has to look at the two countries that were leaders of the 1930s eugenics movement to see where misguided physicians can lead society. Whether it was racial purification in Nazi Germany or sterilizing those not worthy of parenting at the Central Virginia Training Center in Lynchburg, Virginia, physicians can do as much harm as good in the name of science.

“Our only hope is to have scientific research and efforts led by physicians who are grounded in ethics. The world believes in the moral neutrality of ethics which we are fortunate to realize is a myth. We are so fortunate that our Lord has given us a guide to ethics in His Scriptures. He has blessed us with an amazing capacity to use our brains in understanding His principles in living and changing this world. We must understand the infinite complexity of His creation, how it at times goes astray due to the sin in this now imperfect world, and what and how we can use our knowledge to do good to His glory, not ours. If we keep our sights set on His way and act as we perceive His will, then we will hear, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’” (Matthew 25:23, NIV 1984).

CMDA Ethics Statement: Eugenics and Enhancement
History of Eugenics

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