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Smart Thread Technology

Smart technology products are now penetrating into surgical suture area. Tufts University engineers have announced the invention of “smart” threads that are able to collect diagnostic data. Smart threads collect significant data such as pH and glucose levels by penetrating multiple tissue layers to interstitial fluid. Collected data are recorded by sending the data to a flexible wireless transmitter placed on the skin.

Smart threads invented by Tufts University engineers are based on a system constructed through integration of nano-scale sensors, electronic and micro-fluidics into threads. Threads ranging from simple cotton to sophisticated synthetic threads could be used in this new technology. Diagnostic data are gathered wirelessly in real-time by suturing multiple tissues with smart threads. It is suggested that this thread-based diagnostic system would be more efficient in implantable diagnostic devices and smart wearable systems.

During investigation of smart threads, different types of conductive threads were used to integrate physical and chemical sensing compounds. A flexible system is constructed by connecting the threads into wireless electronic circuitry and threads were sutured into rat tissues both in-vivo and in-vitro. It was seen that threads were able to collect all data (e.g. pressure, stress, temperature) related to tissue health. Moreover, data giving information about wound healing such as pH and glucose levels were collected. In addition to these, data was collected regarding infection rate and body’s chemistry. Most importantly, all data were transmitted into mobile phones and computers wirelessly. Thus, the results were monitored in real time.

Although this new technology needs more study to be used on patients and long-term biocompatibility studies are required, first results show the possibility of developing patient specific treatment which is the most important breakthrough of the study.

Researchers claim that being able to suture of smart threads very close to organs and tissue environment in three dimensions is the biggest feature of this technology compared with other flexible diagnostic systems. It is strongly believed that thread-based technology will initiate the developing of new technologies such as smart surgical suture and smart bandage. Hence, it is thought that patient specific treatment and point-of-care diagnostics will be possible by monitoring wound healing in real time.

The main disadvantage of the previous similar technologies is the using of expensive materials which require specific processes. However, smart threads are abundant, inexpensive, thin and flexible. Hence, they are easily worked and they could have complex shapes. Finally, it is suggested that analytes on the threads could be transferred directly into the tissues due to wicking property found on the threads naturally.

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