Innovation That Matters

Biomedical implant

Biomedical tattoo provides early cancer warning

Health & Wellbeing

Swiss researchers have developed an implant that grows an artificial mole when changes in the body indicate potential cancer cells.

Researchers at the Swiss University ETH Zurich developed a synthetic gene network that provides early cancer warnings. When implanted into a body, the genes monitor the level of calcium. As a highly regulated substance, any increase in the level of the mineral requires investigation and analysis. Early detection is the most important aspect of surviving cancer. The implant recognizes the four most common types of cancer – breast, lung, prostate and colon. It works via a network of human genes that monitor blood calcium levels. When necessary, the implant triggers the alert system. An artificial mole acts as a visible alert, growing only when the implant detects a certain level of calcium.

Part of the University’s Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering, the Basel-based team thinks the implant could have other applications. The prototype is already available in two versions. Some patients may not want to self-monitor. Therefore, one version of the implant produces an indicator that is only visible under red light. This version has medical professionals monitor the implant. The implant needs to complete a series of clinical trials before it can become commercially available. The scientists think that may be 10 years away. By then, however, they hope to have developed other tests. For example, it may be possible to alter the implant to indicate other slow developing hormonal and neurodegenerative illnesses.

Other ways implants and injectables are providing new solutions to old problems include taking medicine and stopping internal bleeding. Canadian researchers developed a tiny implant that releases prescribed dosages of medicine when a magnet is passed over it. Texas University scientists created an injectable hydrogel that solidifies after injection and triggers the body to begin the wound healing process. How might health innovations be adapted to help the fight for environmental sustainability?



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