Researcher Cites Medical Opportunities For MEMS

Technology Staff Editor
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SAN JOSE, Calif. — MEMS and electronic testing are two of many areas where opportunities abound in medical devices today, according to a researcher in the field. Deborah Schenberger, an analyst at Nerac Inc. discussed work in fields such as smart bone implants and testing for cancer and neurological diseases in a talk at the Biomed Device Forum here. MEMS devices such as piezoresistive strain gauges will be put into future hip, knee and spinal disk replacements to monitor their effectiveness and predict failures for the devices implanted in as many as two million patients in the U.S. each year. Some knee implants wear out within ten years, noted Schenberger who also does research in the field at the University of Portland in Oregon. Combination products will use both electronics and drugs or biological elements. For example, some bone implants will use porous ceramics, stem cells, gene therapy or synthetic tissues to encourage natural bone and muscle growth around the implant, she said. Some central nervous systems diseases such as Lupus or Fibromyalgia could benefit from an analysis of electric signals in the brain or the body. "We can't test for that yet, so there is a great opportunity for medical devices that test for some of these diseases," she said. MEMS and nanoscale materials are also being studied for use treating some forms of cancer. Hollow spheres designed to be absorbed by a tumor can be filled with a drug and exited by ultrasound to explode, delivering the drug directly to the tumor. Other studies are developing tiny metallic particles that can be ingested by a tumor than heated by a microwave device. "It's like an internal laser ablation in which you are basically cooking the cancer cells," she said. Schenberger also cited the opportunity to create a low cost automatic external defibrillator that could be used in the home. Such devices are already being used in public places such as airports. "There are thousands of opportunities to make people lives better, and combination [drug and device] products using microelectronics and nanotechnologies will be key," she said

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