Scientists report they've created tiny medical devices sealed in silk cocoons that did the work they were designed for, then dissolved in the bodies of lab mice. It's an early step in a technology that may hold promise not only for medicine, but also for disposal of electronic waste.
Doctors already use implants that dispense drugs or provide electrical stimulation, but they don't dissolve. The new work is aimed at making devices that do their jobs as long as needed and then just dissolved, without need for surgical removal or risk of long-term side effects.
In the experiment on mice, the devices — which look like tiny computer chips — were designed to generate heat, a potential strategy for fighting infection after surgery by killing germs, said John Rogers of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne, an author of the study.
Someday for people, similar devices might be programmed to monitor the body and release drugs accordingly, or produce electric current to accelerate bone healing, Rogers said.