The field of smart wearable systems has just gotten a boost thanks to researchers from Tufts University. A team of engineers has developed a novel 3-dimensional thread-based diagnostic platform that, when sutured into tissue, collects a range of real-time diagnostic data wirelessly, including pH, glucose levels, temperature, stress, strain, and pressure. Physical and chemical nanosensors, microfluidics, and electronics integrated into various types of conductive threads, including cotton and synthetic fibers, are connected to a wireless electronic circuit. The result is a suture that can penetrate tissue, sense various factors in the interstitial fluid, and relay information to a wireless transmitter affixed to the the skin, which then transfers data to a computer or smartphone.
In contrast to existing flexible 2-dimensional diagnostic platforms, this 3D system enables intimate association of the thread-based diagnostic device with complex organ and tissue microenvironments. The applications for these novel thread-based devices include integration into smart bandages to track wound healing and infection, as well as smart sutures to monitor the biophysical integration of surgical implants, such as orthopedics and organs. Although the initial feasibility studies are promising, future work is required to investigate long-term biocompatibility and efficacy of this novel system.