Smarter human implants will distinctly shape up medical industry in near future

Rendering of the micro-rod growth process CREDIT: Seoul National University

Rendering of the micro-rod growth process. CREDIT: Seoul National University

Medical science has immensely benefited from technological advancements. As expectation and demand keep growing about what can be achieved and diagnosed, medical devices have accordingly become more complex and sophisticated. Thus, nowadays you will find smaller and least invasive optic and optoelectronic image sensors as well as light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

Sophisticated LEDs are considered indeed a breakthrough in the field of optoelectronics, particularly in areas like biotechnology and ophthalmology, endoscopic medicine and surgery. Apart from these, some other medical applications that generally incorporate optoelectronic sensors include pulse oximetry, blood glucose monitoring, dental diagnosis or urine analysis.

A recent research work by a team of Seoul National University (SNU) researchers led by Professor Gyu-Chul Yi, indicates a promising future for electronic devices in general and optoelectronics devices like wearable LED displays, in particular. The team has invented ‘Bendy’ light-emitting diodes by growing gallium nitride micro-rods on graphene substrates.

While most bendable electronics and optoelectronics devices nowadays comprise of organic materials, the research team’s application of gallium nitride micro-rods on graphene is quite a breakthrough. GaN semiconductors guarantee lots of advantages over organic materials in that these exhibit superior optical, mechanical and electrical properties.

When these GaN micro-rod LEDs were put to test, scientists found the result quite promising. ‘Bendy’ LEDs exhibited intense electroluminescence which proved to be quite reliable. Even after 1,000 bending cycles, no significant degradation was noticed in its optical performance. Thus in coming days, scientists are very optimistic that flexible and wearable LED displays will enhance standard of electronic and optoelectronics equipments.

Now that we are talking about human implants, the subject might remain incomplete without mentioning some astounding progresses in brain implants. However, if you think the discussion is about typical electrode implants to provide deep brain stimulation, then you are wrong!

A team of American neuroscientists, belonging to the University of Southern California, North Carolina Wake Forest University and some other institutions have come up with the claim of cracking how long-term memories are made. They claim to solve the mystery behind how information is stored and retrieved in brain and how to replicate this process in damaged brains.

Basically researchers concentrated on the hippocampus, i.e. the part of cerebral cortex where short-term memories are stored as long-term ones. The team observed how electronic signals travel through neurons to generate those long-term memories. Then they have used mathematical modeling to mimic these movements with the help of advanced electronics.

Now the team is moving towards studying enough inputs and outputs so that they can replace the function of the hippocampus or rather bypass the hippocampus completely. The research team is quite hopeful of shaping up memory implants in a more concise and sophisticated manner in near future so that patients could opt for drugs and implants simultaneously to treat severe brain disorders.

As is evident from current research trend, the medical devices industry is expected to grow significantly in coming years. In all probability advancements in the medical sector will play equal role in driving the economy forward, alongside consumer products and automotive industry.

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