Advancing medical technology
Hearing aids, contact lenses and heart pacemakers
have become everyday biological implants. But the new technology
is coming to the service of humankind in ever more artful ways.
Using nanobiotechnology, very small biological devices are being
designed, down to molecular levels (a billionth of a metre).
Potential applications for nanobiotechnology
include systems for improved drug delivery; and biocompatible, high-performance
materials for implants. The condition of critically ill patients
can already be monitored using implanted biosensors, but nanoscale
sensors that detect biological disease agents would provide non-invasive
diagnosis to replace surgery or other traumatic methods of treatment.
The ongoing Nanomed project aims
to produce prototype medical devices using a variety of nanofeatured
materials, especially polymers, employing embossing techniques.
The adhesion and growth of human cells on these new devices is examined,
as is their reaction to them how biocompatible
Advances in electronics, biomaterials and computer sciences may
well result in new devices to repair nerve damage, giving hope to
the 300 000 paralysed people in Europe.
In the SUAW (Stand Up And Walk) project,
an implanted computer-aided nerve stimulator may help paralysed
people regain some movement, and so improve the quality of
their lives. Electrical stimulation from the implant induces
artificial muscular contraction.
An implanted microprocessor could reduce
the need for repeat surgery on replaced joints
In the STMulus project, a smart implant
offers a way of assessing early how firmly a new prosthesis,
e.g. a hip replacement, is embedded, before any loosening
can cause pain or bone damage.
||The two implanted
electrodes are used to detect any signs of loosening in