•It will be most valuable for patients who undergo routine surgeries or even amputations that commonly require post-operative medications.
•The implant works by softly wrapping around nerves to deliver precise, targeted cooling, which numbs nerves and blocks pain signals to the brain.
A team of researchers has developed a small, soft, flexible implant that relieves pain on demand without the use of drugs.
This first-of-its-kind device could provide a much-needed alternative to opioids and other highly addictive medications.
The study was published in the journal Science recently.
The tiny device is just 5 millimetres wide and has one end curled into a cuff that softly wraps around a single nerve, bypassing the need for surgical incisions.
As thin as a sheet of paper, the soft, elastic nerve cooling device is ideal for treating highly sensitive nerves.
By only targeting the affected nerve, the device spares surrounding regions from unnecessary cooling, which could lead to side effects.
The scientists believe the device will be most valuable for patients who undergo routine surgeries or even amputations that commonly require post-operative medications.
Surgeons could implant the device during the procedure to help manage the patient’s post-operative pain.
All components of the devices are biocompatible and naturally absorb into the body's biofluids over the course of days or weeks, without needing surgical extraction. The bioresorbable devices are completely harmless, similar to dissolvable stitches.
This new technology forms the third example of bioresorbable electronic devices from the Rogers lab, which introduced the concept of biodegradable electronics in 2012, also published in the Science journal.
In 2018, Rogers, MacEwan and colleagues demonstrated the world's first bioresorbable electronic device, an implant that accelerates nerve regeneration, published in Nature Medicine.
Thereafter, in 2021, Rogers and his team introduced a transient (biodegradable) pacemaker, published in Nature Biotechnology.
"If you think about soft tissues, fragile nerves and a body that's in constant motion, any interfacing device must have the ability to flex, bend, twist and stretch easily and naturally," Rogers said.
"Furthermore, you would like the device to simply disappear after it is no longer needed, to avoid delicate and risky procedures for surgical removal."
It works by softly wrapping around nerves to deliver precise, targeted cooling, which numbs nerves and blocks pain signals to the brain.
After the device is no longer needed, it naturally absorbs into the body bypassing the need for surgical extraction.