What: It sounds futuristic, but today Carnegie Mellon University researchers are developing edible electronic devices that can be implanted in the body to improve patient care. “We are creating electronically active medical devices that can be implanted in the body,” said Christopher Bettinger, an assistant professor in the departments of Materials Science and Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at CMU. “The idea is for a patient to consume a pill that encapsulates the device.”
Bettinger, along with Jay Whitacre, a professor of materials science and engineering, is creating edible power sources for medical devices that can be taken orally using materials found in the daily diet.
“Our design involves flexible polymer electrodes and a sodium ion electrochemical cell, which allows us to fold the mechanism into an edible pill that encapsulates the device,” Bettinger said.
Why: Bettinger reports that the battery could power biosensors to measure biomarkers or monitor gastric problems. The battery also could be used to stimulate damaged tissue or help in targeted drug delivery for certain types of cancer.
“There’s so much out there we can do with this novel approach to medical devices,” said Bettinger, a recipient of the National Academy of Sciences Award for Initiatives in Research for his innovative work on advanced materials for next-generation implanted medical devices.