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Natural forms are inspiring the design of safer, and improved medical devices. Will this lessen public concern?

October 4, 2018

 

The public are showing a concern about rapidly emerging medical technologies, such as wearable sensors, particularly for patient safety and compatibility. Here, we discuss how innovations are underway which aim to address some of these concerns by designing safer, more flexible devices, by drawing inspiration from nature.

 

 

Medical industries are introducing electronic sensors to help monitor our health. We also use similar devices in our day-to-day activities, like running around the block, while using a heart rate monitor on our arm. 

 

Medical devices can be placed on our skin as wearable devices (wearables), or even in our stomach, as digestible pills. The sensors can measure what is going on in our bodies, such as heart rate, and blood chemistry. This might sound like something from a sci-fi movie, but this is a newly emerging trend which we might start to see becoming part of our day-to-day reality. 

 

What we need in medical devices

 

For these intricate devices to be durable, there are extensive developments underway in these technologies and the materials associated with them. Wearables require advanced adhesives to attach to our skin, which need to be durable, flexible and breathable, maintaining skin-to-skin contact on the body in a range of stressed conditions, like while swimming or cycling. 

 

Implants require appropriate materials to be used for durability and flexibility on the body, and are often made from crude-oil derived products, which can cause physical complications. The body may interpret these as foreign objects, and creates a problematic immune response. 

 

How medical devices can become more flexible

 

There are developments which addresses this issue, such as a new innovation, which applies a thin coating taken from bioengineered silk. Silk has shown its potential to create more flexible and sensitive sensors, as discussed in various studies, as well as by Medical Plastic News.

 

Synthetic spider silk proteins can help resemble biological components in our body, so are more complimentary to our systems, and show their potential when used in implants. Biologically compatible materials like these may not only be beneficial for medical treatments, but also for promoting sustainability and protecting the environment.

 

 

How medical devices can become more personalised

 

Many other cutting-edge technologies are popping up, such as 3D printing which is showing its potential to make the production of healthcare devices more personalised, and more compatible with our bodies. 

 

So, we shouldn't worry about medical devices at all?

 

This is an open topic of debate, as there certainly are precautions to be considered. There still is some public concern, despite the intelligent advancements being made for these technologies. 

 

Some of these concerns about the darker side of medical devices, is shared in the new Netflix Documentary ‘The Bleeding Edge’. An article in The Guardian discusses the release of this documentary, warning that the medical device industry is less regulated than the pharmaceutical industry. However, the extent to which these concerns are over-blown, or not, is open to debate. 

 

Get a taster for the The Bleeding Edge in the video above, and please feel free to comment below on your thoughts on this debatable subject. We are interested to hear your thoughts on this subject! 

 

Within the next week, we will post the part II of this post, discussing this topic further. 

 

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