Our bodies are made up of a series of hydrogels. At our most basic we are just water and polymers. So it makes sense to use hydrogels to monitor and treat our diseases.
Engineers at MIT have made a stretchy robust hydrogel that is 70-95% water and can be embedded with different electronics or drugs to treat diseases and medical conditions.
The hydrogel can bond with many different substances including gold, titanium, aluminum, silicon, glass, and ceramic. It stretches and adheres much better than other synthetic hydrogels. It is also more stable and can be used for longer making it possible to use as implants.
The engineers embedded the hydrogel with conducting wires, LED lights, temperature sensors and drugs. They created different combinations which could be used for various purposes such as a smart bandage that senses skin temperature, dispenses antibiotics when the skin heats up and lights up LEDs when the antibiotic levels run low.
This versatile hydrogel could be used either inside or outside the body. The stiffness, stretchiness and strength of the hydrogel can be changed by increasing or decreasing the amount of water in the gel and changing the polymers used to make it. This means that the gels can be made to mimic the consistency of different organs such as skin, liver or brain. It can also be made to stretch or wrap around organs to deliver treatment right to the affected organ. So this technology could be used to make better pacemakers, glucose sensors or even to create a memory chip that can be inserted into our brains.
The Scientific Paper: