In the realm of personalized medicine, continuous advancements are enhancing our ability to monitor health effortlessly. Wearable devices and home testing kits have simplified tasks like checking heart rate and blood sugar levels. However, compatibility issues with health-tracking devices sometimes arise, prompting researchers like Hangbo Zhao from the University of Southern California (USC) to develop solutions.

Zhao’s focus lies in creating highly flexible sensors that ensure comfort during wear, addressing the discomfort often associated with conventional devices. His latest innovation, miniature soft needles, represents a significant breakthrough, capable of long-term health tracking without causing discomfort. This pioneering work earned recognition, landing on the cover of Science Advances.

Microneedles, essential tools in various medical procedures, including brain stimulation and health monitoring, have traditionally been rigid, limiting their adaptability to the body’s movements. Zhao’s research aims to overcome this limitation by developing microneedles that can bend and stretch, seamlessly integrating with bodily motions.

At USC, Zhao and his team have developed a unique approach to manufacture these flexible microneedles. Through a combination of techniques such as laser cutting, precision crafting, and 3D printing, they create microneedles capable of significant stretching, ranging from 60% to 90%. This flexibility enables customization of both appearance and functionality to meet diverse medical needs.

Inspiration for Zhao’s groundbreaking technology stemmed from an unexpected source: the deep sea. By studying the electrical behavior of sea slug muscles, Zhao and his team demonstrated the potential of microneedle electrodes for a wide range of medical applications. From monitoring brain and nerve activity to detecting muscle and nerve issues, these findings open doors to countless medical possibilities.

The development of flexible microneedles represents a significant leap forward in personalized medicine, offering unparalleled comfort and functionality in health monitoring. As researchers continue to draw inspiration from nature and explore innovative approaches, the future of healthcare promises even greater advancements in precision monitoring and treatment.

By Impact Lab