Vanishing Act

New medical implants treat patients and dissolve when they're done

Pacemakers work just fine. But logistically they're a nightmare: insertion is invasive, infections are common, and even if they're needed for only a short time, removal requires major surgery. But what if they and other medical devices like them could be replaced with microchip-size monitors that simply dissolved when they were no longer needed?

That's the idea behind transient electronics, a new medical technology being pioneered at Tufts, Northwestern and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. By making implantable devices out of biocompatible materials--think silicone, magnesium and silk--researchers are creating the ultimate medical aid: a wi-fi-enabled gadget that can dispense medication,...

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