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NIBIB Advances Bioengineering to Enable Muscle-Powered Electromechanical Therapies

NIBIB Advances Bioengineering to Enable Muscle-Powered Electromechanical Therapies

Researchers at the National Institute of Health’s (NIH’s) National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) have developed materials that create electrical pulses when compressed by muscles in the body. “Piezoelectric materials such as ceramics and crystals have a special property of creating an electrical charge in response to mechanical stress,” says NIH. This technology has been used in ultrasound transducers and even in cell phones, and when used in the body show great potential to quicken the healing of bone fractures and help to manage chronic pain conditions.
The team conducting the research is led by the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering. Researchers there have developed ultra-thin material devices that have the potential to be controlled by less-rigid body parts—such  as skin or even amino acids—that  have the piezoelectrical properties needed to control the electrical currents. The materials have not yet been used in humans but have been tested in the legs and chests of rats with no harmful side effects.
The team at the University of Wisconsin is led by Xudong Wang, PhD. “We believe the technology opens a vast array of possibilities including real-time sensing, accelerated healing of wounds and other types of injuries, and electrical stimulation to treat pain and other neurological disorders,” said Dr. Wang. “Importantly, our rapid self-assembling technology dramatically reduces the cost of such devices, which has the potential to greatly expand the use of this very promising form of medical intervention.”
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