University of Pittsburgh researchers' spine implants would monitor healing


A team at University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering is creating a 3D-printed smart implant that would double as a sensor to monitor spinal healing.

Five things to know:

1. The implants are patient-specific metamaterial implants that record and relay information about the pressure and stress in its structure, the university said June 23. The data can be read noninvasively with a portable ultrasound scanner.

2. The smart device would be an alternative to traditional cages used to support the spine after a fusion.

3, Researchers have successfully tested the smart devices in human cadavers and plan to test on animals. Applications for the smart sensor design could be adapted to other areas, such as cardiovascular stents or joint replacements.

4. "Smart implants can provide real-time biofeedback and offer many therapeutic and diagnostic benefits," Amir Alavi, PhD, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, said in a feature. "But it is very challenging to integrate bulky circuits or power sources into the small area of implants. The solution is to use the implant matrix as an active sensing and energy harvesting medium."

5. Details about the researchers' work was published May 17 in Advanced Functional Material.

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