Engineers and orthopedic specialists at the University of Arizona built an ultra-thin wireless sensor that is designed to monitor bone health over long periods of time. The battery-free device is designed to measure a variety of physiological parameters, such as temperature and bone tension, and could be useful for patients with osteoporosis or to monitor healing and guide rehabilitation after a fracture. The device is attached to the surface of the bone using a calcium adhesive, which stimulates bone growth and fuses with the surface of the device for long-term implantation.
Today, it is difficult to know precisely how a bone is healing. Physiological responses can vary from patient to patient, making personalized treatment difficult. Understanding how a bone is healing and responding to treatment could help guide that treatment to be as effective as possible and avoid any unwanted side effects, paving the way for more personalized orthopedic care.
“Being able to monitor the health of the musculoskeletal system is very important,” Philipp Gutruf, a researcher involved in the study, said in an announcement from the University of Arizona. “With this interface, you basically have a computer on the bone. This technological platform allows us to create research tools for scientists to discover how the musculoskeletal system works and use the information collected to benefit recovery and therapy. “
The device is designed to monitor bone health over long periods of time and could be particularly useful for patients who are at increased risk for refractures and bone problems, such as those with osteoporosis. The technology could also help with clinical decisions, such as when to remove plates or screws from a bone.
“As a surgeon, what I am most excited about is using electronically collected measurements of the bone surface to one day provide my patients with individualized orthopedic care, with the goal of accelerating rehabilitation and maximizing function after traumatic injuries,” he said. Dr. David Margolis, another researcher involved in the study.
The device was designed to be very thin, almost as thick as a sheet of paper, so that it can rest on the bone without irritating the overlying muscles and conform to the surface of the bone. Battery-free technology relies on power transmission and near-field communication to obtain power and communicate with external devices such as a smartphone.
Finally, a unique adhesive consisting of calcium particles helps the device adhere to the bone surface for extended periods of time. “Basically, the bone thinks the device is part of it and grows up to the sensor itself,” Gutruf said. “This allows it to form a permanent bond with the bone and take measurements over long periods of time.”
To study in Communications from nature: Bone Surface Electronics: Wireless, Battery-Free, Thin, Multimodal Musculoskeletal Biointerfaces