It’s difficult for doctors to monitor the health of a patient’s bones, or to observe how broken or fractured bones heal. However, this may soon change thanks to researchers at the University of Arizona, who have developed a device that holds fast to the bone and sends data wirelessly in real-time.
The device, which is called osseosurface electronics, is about the size of a penny, as thin as a piece of paper, and is impressively packed with several sensors that send the data about the bone straight to a smartphone or another kind of device. The osseosurface electronics don’t even need to be powered by a battery because they can be charged from the outside via near-field communication (NFC).
To ensure that the device remains attached to the bone long-term, the team produced an adhesive comprised of calcium phosphate ceramic particles that allow the bone to grow around it. This means that the device won’t come loose when the outer layers are shed over time and prevents it from irritating the muscles that move on top of the bone.
“Being able to monitor the health of the musculoskeletal system is super important,” explains Philipp Gutruf, co-senior author of the study. “With this interface, you basically have a computer on the bone. This technology platform allows us to create investigative tools for scientists to discover how the musculoskeletal system works and to use the information gathered to benefit recovery and therapy.”
So far, the device has been tested successfully on animals, both big and small, but there is still more research to be done before human trials can commence.
Source study: Nature Communications—Osseosurface electronics – thin, wireless, battery-free and multimodal musculoskeletal biointerfaces