Researchers at Northwestern University have unveiled an innovative electronic device designed for real-time monitoring of the condition of transplanted organs. This soft, ultrathin implant, when placed directly on a transplanted kidney, can identify temperature irregularities associated with inflammation and other bodily responses linked to transplant rejection.
It communicates this information wirelessly to nearby smartphones or tablets, providing timely alerts to patients or healthcare providers. Transplant rejection can occur at any time, from immediately post-transplant to years later, often without noticeable symptoms. This pioneering device aims to provide a protective measure, offering continuous monitoring to provide peace of mind.
Notably compact, the sensor measures just 0.3 centimeters in width, 0.7 centimeters in length, and boasts a thickness of 220 microns smaller than a pinky fingernail and roughly the width of a single strand of hair. To securely attach it to the kidney, researchers capitalized on the organ's natural biology. They positioned the sensor beneath the renal capsule, a protective fibrous layer that encases the kidney, ensuring a snug fit and optimal thermal contact with the organ.
Overcoming engineering challenges related to the kidney's mobility and soft tissue nature, the device serves as a gentle, seamless interface that mitigates the risk of organ damage. It houses an exquisitely sensitive thermometer capable of detecting minute temperature variations (0.004 degrees Celsius) specific to the kidney. Additionally, the sensor monitors blood flow, although temperature emerges as a superior indicator of rejection.
These sensors are linked to a compact electronic module situated near the kidney, which includes a small coin cell battery for power. By employing Bluetooth technology, the device continuously and wirelessly transmits data to external devices, representing an implantable bioelectronic system designed for the early detection of kidney transplant rejection.