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Novel technologies

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’ they are.
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.

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Electrical implants

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 artificial joints. image The two implanted electrodes are used to detect any signs of loosening in artificial joints.

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New medicine