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August 2012
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Environmentally safe electronics that also vanish in the body

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Physicians and environmentalists alike could soon be using a new class of electronic devices: small, robust and high performance, yet also biocompatible and capable of dissolving completely in water – or in bodily fluids.

Researchers at the University of Illinois, in collaboration with Tufts University and Northwestern University, have demonstrated a new type of biodegradable electronics technology that could introduce new design paradigms for medical implants, environmental monitors and consumer devices.

“We refer to this type of technology as transient electronics,” said John A. Rogers, the Lee J. Flory-Founder Professor of Engineering at the U. of I., who led the multidisciplinary research team. “From the earliest days of the electronics industry, a key design goal has been to build devices that last forever – with completely stable performance. But if you think about the opposite possibility – devices that are engineered to physically disappear in a controlled and programmed manner – then other, completely different kinds of application opportunities open up.”

Three application areas appear particularly promising. First are medical implants that perform important diagnostic or therapeutic functions for a useful amount of time and then simply dissolve and resorb in the body. Second are environmental monitors, such as wireless sensors that are dispersed after a chemical spill, that degrade over time to eliminate any ecological impact. Third are consumer electronic systems or sub-components that are compostable, to reduce electronic waste streams generated by devices that are frequently upgraded, such as cellphones or other portable devices.

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Mayo Clinic Finds Way to Weed Out Problem Stem Cells, Making Therapy Safer

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Mayo Clinic researchers have found a way to detect and eliminate potentially troublemaking stem cells to make stem cell therapy safer. Induced Pluripotent Stem cells, also known as iPS cells, are bioengineered from adult tissues to have properties of embryonic stem cells, which have the unlimited capacity to differentiate and grow into any desired types of cells, such as skin, brain, lung and heart cells. However, during the differentiation process, some residual pluripotent or embryonic-like cells may remain and cause them to grow into tumors.

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