1/13/17 Researchers at Columbia Engineering have developed a way to manufacture microscale-sized machines from biomaterials that can safely be implanted in the body. This new technique is called iMEMS, implantable microelectromechanical systems, and it stacks hydrogel in layers to make devices that have three-dimensional, freely moving parts.
By working with the unique mechanical properties of hydrogels, the researchers developed a “locking mechanism” for precise actuation and movement of freely moving parts, which can provide functions such as valves, manifolds, rotors, pumps, and drug delivery. This iMEMS platform has enabled the researchers to develop biocompatible implantable microdevices with a range of intricate moving components that can be controlled wirelessly, without any issues of device powering and biocompatibility. They have bridged the gap between biomaterials and complex elaborate medical devices.
This technique addresses several fundamental considerations in building biocompatible microdevices, micromachines, and microrobots: how to make small biocompatible moveable components that are not silicon which has limited biocompatibility, how to power small robotic devices without using toxic batteries, and how to communicate wirelessly once implanted. The team tested the drug delivery system on mice with bone cancer. The iMEMS system delivered chemotherapy adjacent to the cancer, and limited tumor growth while showing less toxicity than chemotherapy administered throughout the body.
The applications this technique can be used for are exciting to think about! Bridging the gap opens up a whole new world of ideas!