The brain and heart may be the vital parts of our body, but the external force that controls the whole body is electricity. Electricity is responsible for the neuron firing and the transmission of current by the heart. The use of electrodes for the monitoring of various activities in our body has not yet been introduced inside the body. If it could be used, millions of people with neural damage and other problems in the heart and brain could be easily cured. The problem with these electrodes is that they are biologically incompatible to our body. They are big in size and stiff in shape, which makes it difficult to place them in a small portion inside the body. Another major problem is regarding its water sensitivity. The electrodes react badly to water, and since the human body is filled with water, that could be a huge problem.
All the above said problems have been solved with the invention of a new type of electrodes. They are small, flexible, and also water proof. The biggest property of this device is that it can easily cope up with the properties of the human tissues. These electrodes can also be used for easier monitoring and controlling of the body activities.
The electrode was developed by John A. Rogers, a scientist from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He used a technique in which thin silicon wafers or LED’s were sliced with a chemical etcher.
This electrode is then made flexible and into desired shapes and then attached to rubber platforms. After all these processes, the device is finally made water proof by encapsulating it in a polymer. Thus the electrode obtained can be spread onto a tissue surface like a plastic sheet.
John recently published an article about planting an electrode on to a patient who was suffering from atrial fibrillation. His studies and research came in the March edition of the journal “Nature Materials”. Earlier doctors used to insert a single electrode catheter into a vein and coax it up to the heart. Thus, the whole electrical activity can be realized outside the body. All this is done just to know the location of the disease. Later, another catheter is required to fix the disease by burning the malfunctioned tissue. But, the procedure and diagnostics may take more than an hour. The accuracy of such a test is also very small and will vary according to the skill of the surgeon. .
To solve these problems, John developed a simple balloon catheter with size adjustable electrodes. This catheter will also be passed along the vein to the heart. After it reaches the heart, it can be inflated to the desired size from outside. Thus, all the electrical measurements that are needed are obtained along with the blood flow intensity, tissue contact and body temperature. After all the measures are taken, the same catheter can be used to perform the operation as well.
In the figure below, you can see one of the catheters developed by John. The device is covered with electrodes.
In other studies, Roger has also tries to use the electrode to pinpoint seizure causing brain regions in severe epileptics. He was successful in consuming a large amount of data with a single device, when compared to the earlier techniques.