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Bioresorbable photonic devices for the spectroscopic characterization of physiological status and neural activity


Capabilities in real-time monitoring of internal physiological processes could inform pharmacological drug-delivery schedules, surgical intervention procedures and the management of recovery and rehabilitation. Current methods rely on external imaging techniques or implantable sensors, without the ability to provide continuous information over clinically relevant timescales, and/or with requirements in surgical procedures with associated costs and risks. Here, we describe injectable classes of photonic devices, made entirely of materials that naturally resorb and undergo clearance from the body after a controlled operational lifetime, for the spectroscopic characterization of targeted tissues and biofluids. As an example application, we show that the devices can be used for the continuous monitoring of cerebral temperature, oxygenation and neural activity in freely moving mice. These types of devices should prove useful in fundamental studies of disease pathology, in neuroscience research, in surgical procedures and in monitoring of recovery from injury or illness.

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Fig. 1: Bioresorbable Si photodetector with a bioresorbable fibre optic probe for spectroscopic characterization of biological tissues.
Fig. 2: Bioresorbable tri-colour Si photodetector with a bioresorbable fibre optic probe for spectroscopic characterization of biological tissues.
Fig. 3: Bioresorbable optical filter based on multilayer assemblies of films of SiOx and SiNy.
Fig. 4: In vivo evaluations of elemental biodistribution and biocompatibility of bioresorbable devices for spectroscopic characterization of biological tissues throughout their operational period and beyond.
Fig. 5: In vitro demonstrations of oxygenation, temperature, melanin and Ca2+ sensing via spectroscopic measurements using bioresorbable devices.
Fig. 6: Monitoring cerebral temperature, oxygenation and neural activity in freely moving animal models via spectroscopic measurements using bioresorbable devices.
Fig. 7: Representative confocal images of 30-µm horizontal striatal slices at various stages after implantation of the bioresorbable optical probes, compared with a control group.

Data availability

The main data supporting the results of this study are available within the paper and its Supplementary Information files. The raw and analysed datasets generated during the study are available for research purposes from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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W.Z. acknowledges support from the Army Research Office under grant W911NF-15-1-0035. This work utilized the Northwestern University Micro/Nano Fabrication Facility, which is partially supported by the Soft and Hybrid Nanotechnology Experimental Resource (NSF ECCS-1542205), Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (NSF DMR-1121262), State of Illinois, Northwestern University and Center for Bio-Integrated Electronics (Simpson Querrey Institute). The Center for Developmental Therapeutics is supported by Cancer Center Support Grant P30 CA060553 from the National Cancer Institute, awarded to the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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W.B., R.F., J.S., D.L., X.N., Y.P., Z.L., T.H., Y.L., D.W., H.Z., X.S., L.Y., W.Z. and J.A.R. designed and fabricated the devices, and performed the analysis. W.B., I.K., J.S., D.L., X.N., Y.P., I.S. and F.A. performed the animal study. C.R.H. and A.B. performed the computed tomography imaging. W.B., I.K, J.S., D.W., X.N., Q.Y., J.Z., K.M. and M.P. performed the study of bioresorption, biodistribution and toxicity. W.B., J.S., I.K., R.F., W.Z. and J.A.R wrote the manuscript with input from all authors.

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Correspondence to John A. Rogers.

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Bai, W., Shin, J., Fu, R. et al. Bioresorbable photonic devices for the spectroscopic characterization of physiological status and neural activity. Nat Biomed Eng 3, 644–654 (2019).

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