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EDIBLE ELECTRONICS

9/10/14 MES has reported before on such developments which open up massive potential for medical device OEMs, and could truly revolutionize countless area of existing treatment, and open up new areas of medical intervention.

Edible electronics are made from basic edible materials and naturally occurring precursors that are consumed in common diets. Using such techniques, up to 0.6 V and currents in the range of 5–20 μA can be generated routinely. Inexpensive, non-toxic, sodium-ion batteries can be made that power sensors, drug delivery systems, or tissue stimulating tools made from biodegradable of bioresorbable shape-memory polymer. These devices can be folded down and encased within a gelatin capsule, allowing for a timed-release at a key point in the body. When the capsule dissolves, the polymer hydrates, thus initiating electrical current flow from the battery, and causing the device to open into its operational form.

Such technology could power sensors that could be used in undertaking internal surveillance for metabolic procedures (blood values, temperature, wound healing processes, etc.) and these devices would disintegrate after a certain time in the human body without any health risks. The palatable circuits could also be used in tablets to examine whether or when they were taken by a patient. If, for example, the circuit is no longer transmitting, it implies the medicine was ingested.

Developments in the area of biotechnology like this have the ability to overcome a particular issue that surrounds the burgeoning area of biologic drug development, and could present numerous options for leading pharma players. These drugs have been found to offer huge benefits in the treatment of a variety of debilitating and chronic diseases, but as they are protein-based, they are destroyed when coming into contact with gastric acid. So saying, the administration of biologic drugs is somewhat complicated by the necessity for various injection technologies.

However, edible electronics open up the possibility of being able to administer such drugs, and allow them to be ingested via oral administration. This could make therapies such as arthritis drugs that currently have to be given intravenously much easier to take. Smart pills could carry sensors and circuits and release drugs only after they have passed the harsh environment of the stomach and reached the intestine, where the drugs could be absorbed into the body.

It is impossible to overstate the potential that exists using such technology, but the basic principles of design and manufacture using delicate polymers are still present, and indeed are exacerbated by the sensitivity of the organic electronic elements that need to be incorporated with the bioresorbable polymers.

MES remains extremely well-informed of developments in this area, and is eager to discuss projects from OEMs that look to exploit “conventional” resorbable materials, or the more ground-breaking advances in edible electronics.

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