MIT Breakthrough

9/26/2008 CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Geckos are teaching some of the greatest minds in medicine a new way to help patients. Geckos can walk on walls. That ability may soon help doctors cut down on stitching up patients after surgery.

"Geckos have tiny features at the surface of their toes that are about 100-times smaller than a human hair and they have millions of them," Jeffrey M. Karp, Ph.D., an assistant professor with Harvard and MIT's Division of Health Sciences and Technology, told Ivanhoe.

The etched patterns in the researchers' microchip mimic the gecko's feet. A layer of biodegradable glue helps the bandage stay sticky when wet and could eliminate the need for stitches.

And the future of delivering medicine could be in a device called Micro-Pharmacy. Medicine is sandwiched between positive and negatively charged layers of film. Researchers hope to implant the chip in patients to deliver drugs to targeted areas in the body.

"When you're in a local area near the cancer tumor, you only need small amounts of the chemotherapy drug," Paula Hammond, Ph.D., Bayer Chair Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT told Ivanhoe.

The implant would be remotely activated through a small electric field.

Another device called Robopsy would also be remotely controlled and could make needle biopsies less invasive.

"The surgeon is driving a video game because they are back in the control room and the minute they see the image from the CT machine, they can instruct Robopsy to insert the needle," Dr. Hammond said.

The light weight disposable plastic spherical mechanism takes the guesswork out of finding the accurate biopsy spot. Currently, a CAT scan uses radiation so doctors cannot be in the room when it is done. Doctors watch through a monitor then return to the patient. But Robopsy will change that.

"This is a tool to help get them there faster and a little more accurately," Alexander Slocum, Ph.D., a professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, told Ivanhoe.

The gecko-inspired bandage could be in clinical trials in a few years. Researchers hope the Micro-Pharmacy chip would eventually deliver medicine on its own by sensing when meds are needed. And Robopsy can be used for all different types of biopsies.

Articles from MIT:
Gecko Adhesive

Jeffrey M. Karp

Paula Hammond
Hammond Lab Website Link


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