In search of advanced medical devices that can be swallowed by the body and do not need to be surgically removed, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new technique that can break them down by exposing them to certain kinds of light. The study could help avoid the need for invasive endoscopy surgery, where patients can break down the device into biocompatible components by swallowing absorbable LED lights to safely discharge it.
In many cases, medical equipment may need to be inserted into the patient’s gastrointestinal tract to study or treat different diseases. For example, diet balloons can be used to treat obesity by reducing the patient’s stomach space to suppress appetite and then removing it six months or twelve months after endoscopy surgery. The esophagus stent is another example of resistance to esophagus stenosis caused by cancer or other diseases.
“We are developing a system that can reside in the gastrointestinal tract as part of which we are looking to develop different ways to trigger the removal of equipment in the gastrointestinal tract without major surgery. Giovanni Traverso, senior author of the study, said.
Traverso and his collaborators solved this problem by developing a new type of photosensitive hydrogel. The material is based on a polymer gel containing a chemical bond that can be broken down by light from blue to ultraviolet light. The polymer is combined with a stronger component made of polyacrylamide to make it more durable, but still has the ability to break down light by instruction.
The researchers can adjust the composition of the gel to different functions. The increased use of photosensitive polymers in its structure means that it will decompose more quickly, but with less mechanical strength. The time required to break down the material can also be controlled by the light source, and blue light works slower, but provides better safety than UV rays. The researchers tested the hydrogel as a seal for a weight-loss balloon, which is placed in a pig’s stomach and expands. Then place a small amount of swallowable blue LED light in the stomach for six hours, causing the balloon to slowly deflate. Using higher-power LED lights, the material is broken down within 30 minutes, the team reported.
In another experiment, the team succeeded in using its material to create an esophagus stent. As with fat balloon seals, the idea is that once the tools are done, their damage is triggered by light, and once they are no longer needed, they can pass through the digestive tract.
“This study is a proof of concept that we can create this material, and now we’re thinking about which material is best for us,” Traverso said. “
The study was published in the journal Science Advances.