Docs turn to silkworms to spin a better bone implant

Fibers spun by the Bombyx mori silkworm have been used for thousands of years to produce soft, flowing fabrics to cloak the outsides of our bodies. Now researchers are working to put silk inside our bodies with surgical screws and plates made from B. mori cocoons.

Researchers from Tufts University and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) drilled 28 silken screws into the femurs of laboratory rats to test their efficacy in helping bones to heal. Some of the screws were left in for eight weeks, while others stayed in for four. In both cases the screws were biocompatible (accepted by the body); did not degrade when they came in contact with bodily fluids; and had the rats up and about without showing signs of severe pain. … Read more

Could your heart power its own pacemaker?

Scientists have been working for years on finding a way to harvest ambient energy continuously to power biomedical implants. The aim is to keep these vital implants running without the need for batteries, multiple invasive surgeries, and the like. From solar power to friction, to the energy produced when glucose breaks down or body temperature shifts, every rock is being turned over, looked under, and presumably considered for its potential as an energy source, too.

Now, bioengineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign say they are closing in on this goal. Perhaps the holy grail of biomedical energy harvesting is using nearby organs; the energy generated by our own hearts and lungs is so, well, reliable.… Read more

Crave Ep. 144: DARPA wants to put an implant in your brain

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In an effort to track the health of soldiers, DARPA has started developing brain implants to monitor brain activity in real time. We check out the new age of rhythm game apps with Duet, and admire a Mario-like side-scrolling job resume that's quite possibly the best job resume ever created. All that, and some funeral selfies, on this week's Crave show. Read more

Implanted Bluetooth biochip gets under hacker's skin

If Tim Cannon wants to check his temperature, he doesn't need a thermometer. The biochip that's been surgically implanted in his arm does it for him, transmitting the data in real time, via Bluetooth, to an Android device.

The implant, about the size of a Bic lighter and dubbed the Circadia 1.0, lives between the skin and muscles of Cannon's left forearm in a sealed box, which also contains a battery that can be charged wirelessly. Built-in red LEDs act as status lights, and can be programmed to illuminate the tattoo of a DNA double helix that sits atop Cannon's bulging implant. He's thinking of programming the biosensor to text him if it think he's getting a fever. … Read more

Surgically implanted headphones are literally 'in-ear'

Headphones can be so easy to lose -- but not when you have them implanted in your ears.

That's what Rich Lee decided to do. Inspired by an Instructables tutorial on how to make invisible headphones using magnets and a coil necklace with an attached amplifier, the 34-year-old entrepreneur went a step further and implanted one such headphone in each ear.

The magnets sit on the outside of the tragus, the part of the ear that projects immediately in front of the canal. The magnets function as speakers, and the coil around Lee's neck transmits to them. … Read more

3D-printed implant replaces 75 percent of patient's skull

Doctors have already replaced a patient's jaw with a 3D-printed titanium implant, so why not part of a skull? Earlier this week, 75 percent of an American patient's skull was surgically replaced with a custom-made implant produced by a 3D printer from Oxford Performance Materials.

The full name of the implant is the OsteoFab Patient Specific Cranial Device. The implant is made from PEKK biomedical polymer and printed using CAD files developed to fit each person. The world of skulls is not one-size-fits-all. Much like an expensive pair of bespoke shoes, these skull implants are unique to the individual.… Read more

FDA approves single-lead implantable cardiac defibrillator

Cardio med tech company Biotronik today announced Food and Drug Administration approval of the world's first implantable cardiac defibrillator that uses just one lead to sense atrial arrhythmias.

Say what?

For those unfamiliar with the mechanics of the heart, let's back up. Atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common heat arrhythmia, occurs when the electrical signals in the atria (the heart's two upper chambers) fire fast and frenetically, causing the atria to essentially quiver instead of pulse regularly, which can result in blood pooling or clotting and thus greatly increase the risk of stroke and congestive heart failure.… Read more

Crave Ep. 104: Bluetooth toilet humor

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On this week's show, we check out Tailly, a wearable robotic tail that wags when you get excited. If that gets you wagging, then you'll definitely want to have a look at the Satis Bluetooth toilet that can flush with your smartphone. And in honor of winter, we look at how a snowflake is born. It's the last show of 2012, and we bid you farewell until the new year. The show returns on January 18. … Read more

MIT figures out how to power tiny devices with... the ear

Devices that monitor inner ear activity could eventually be powered by the ear itself, according to research detailed in the current issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology by scientists from MIT, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI), and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST).

They say that for decades we have known the inner ear houses its own natural battery, but this is the first demonstration of its ability to power something external without compromising hearing.… Read more

Hashtag 'scalpel': Hospital to live-tweet ear surgery

If you're on Twitter, you've probably followed a live-tweeted gadget reveal or political convention or Olympics event or Mars rover landing in your day. You probably have not, however, followed a live-tweeted surgery. That could change tomorrow.

As Dr. Douglas Backous performs a cochlear implant operation at Seattle's Swedish Medical Center, his moves will be tweeted live, with still photos from inside the operating room posted to Instagram (presumably not by Backous himself). … Read more