Researchers at Columbia University have developed a manufacturing technique that allows them to layer hydrogels. This material holds great promise for the future of medicine, for example in cancer therapy. The end goal of their project was to create tiny, biocompatible implantable devices. Thanks to their new technique, the complex structures can be made in less than 30 minutes.
The technology has been called implantable microelectromechanical systems (iMEMS). It makes the hydrogels easier to work with, since this vital material is what allows the device to be biocompatible. Sheets of hydrogel were polymerised using light and composite structures were created within each hydrogel layer. Multiple layers were aligned and precisely stacked to create a three dimensional structure.
The finished device is on the millimeter scale and features powered pumps and rotors. A key accomplishment of the project is accurate control of the device’s moving parts through the development of a locking mechanism.
One potential use for the technology is in the area of cancer treatment. The device could be fitted with a capsule that slowly releases a chemotherapy agent. This would enable accurate targeting of tumour cells while minimising toxic effects on the rest of the body.
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