A new sensing instrument that can now dissolve on its own inside the body could offer a host of opportunities for health professionals looking to monitor bodily processes in real time.
Fiber Bragg gratings are sensing elements that have been inscribed in an optical fiber via a laser. They are made with a special type of glass: phosphorous oxide combined with oxides of calcium, magnesium, sodium, and silicon. In the past, fiber Bragg gratings inside optical fibers have been used as a sensing instrument for “real-time monitoring” of bridges and airplanes, ensuring that they are stable and structurally sound.
Now, fiber Bragg gratings are capable of dissolving inside the body, similar to the way stitches have been designed to dissolve on their own. This means they can safely be used to explore “sensitive organs” like the heart and brain, a major advantage for using this technology in the body.
"Because they dissolve, these sensors don't need to be removed after use and would enable new ways to perform efficient treatments and diagnoses in the body,” explained Maria Konstantaki.
Dissolvable fiber Bragg gratings inside optical fibers could aid in sensing joint pressure, evaluating the heart, and improving laser-based techniques for removing cancerous tumors.
"This is the first time that a widely used and well-calibrated optical element such as a Bragg grating has been etched into a bioresorbable optical fiber," Konstantaki explained. "Our approach could potentially be used to create various types of interconnected structures in or on bioresorbable optical fibers, allowing a wide range of sensing and biochemical analysis techniques to be performed inside the body."
Konstantaki is from the Institute of Electronic Structure and Laser (IESL) of the Foundation of Research and Technology and was joined in the present study by collaborators from Politecnico di Torino and Istituto Superiore Mario Boella.
Because of their unique design, fiber Bragg gratings exhibit optimal visual properties, and they are biocompatible and water soluble.
Going forward, Konstantaki and the other researchers involved in designing the new fiber Bragg gratings will continue to analyze their composition and how quickly they dissolve in the body in response to ultraviolet laser irradiation. They have the potential to create fiber Bragg gratings that dissolve in a certain amount of time, but the design will have to be tested in animal models before conducting human clinical trials.
The present study was published in the journal Optics Letters.
Source: The Optical Society