Medical Devices and Healthcare IT

Implantable biosensors and their medical applications

02 December 2022
About 1 cm long, this biosensing chip is engineered to measure pH, temperature and metabolism-related molecules such as glucose, lactate and cholesterol. Source: Alain Herzog/Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

A biosensor is an analytical instrument that can transform biological responses or stimuli into quantifiable signals and provide precise quantitative and semi-quantitative information about their analysis. Fundamentally, it consists of a detector or transducer, a biological sensing device and a signal processing unit. Optical, electrochemical, calorimetric or auditory transduction methods are all examples of transducers. To date, biosensors have demonstrated their ability to be useful in a variety of fields, including food safety and homeland defense. However, the most significant use of biosensors is in the medical sphere, which is discussed in this article.

What is an implantable biosensor?

The term "implantable biosensors" is used to refer to biosensors that are inserted into the human body and destined to remain there for a lengthy period. These offer an additional potential option for continuous monitoring while reducing a patient's pain and discomfort.

The need for implantable biosensors

New and enhanced devices with increased sensitivity, dependability, specificity and biocompatibility are required for the precise monitoring, diagnosis and treatment of numerous medical disorders. In addition, biosensors must also concurrently identify various analytes or stimuli in biological fluids, both within the body and in the environment. The requirement for regular tracking of vital signs seeks to alleviate the necessity for hospitalization and patient supervision.

Medical devices that can be implanted under the skin have been the subject of many investigations. Blood pressure, heart electrical impulses, blood glucose level, pulse rate and breathing rate are the most measured vital indicators in these devices. Developments in the area have allowed patients to move more freely and receive medical surveillance with uninterrupted diagnostic data streams.

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Requirements for implantable biosensors

Depending on the application, biosensors may be required to meet a variety of criteria, including biocompatibility (also referred to as biodegradability or bioresorbability), miniaturization and dependability. For example, skin-integrated devices must be able to adjust to and support the skin's continual movements in a non-discomforting fashion, capabilities that require them to be flexible, stretchy, lightweight and ultra-thin. Implantable devices offer these qualities to avoid or reduce immune reactions and biofouling and avoid invasive surgery.

The development of such implanted devices is hindered by a number of issues, including the risk of foreign body reactions, the necessity for lightweight and compact batteries and electronics, and limitations in wireless data transmission. However, advancements in biosensor technology have created new avenues to enhance diagnostic systems, medical care and the patient's well-being.

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Applications in the medical sector

Implantable biosensors have many benefits when compared with other tracking devices as they can monitor biological metabolites, electric signals, electrical stimulation of nerves, drug delivery, and the restoration of body functions directly from within the human body. Implantable biosensors used in skin-mounted epidermal electronics systems provide non-invasive, constant tracking of medically vital physical signals, such as pulse rate, heart rate, skin temperature, breathing rate and blood pressure. This information is transmitted to the patient as well as the physician, allowing them to make informed decisions about their health. Additionally, saliva, sweat, and tears also provide vital data for analysis. The mechanical features of these epidermal electronic systems can be used as a "secondary skin" as they are similar to real human skin.

In this regard, epidermal sensors are akin to a temporary transfer tattoo as these devices may conformably attach and laminate to the skin's surface by mild touch. The fact that they may be applied to any part of the patient's skin makes them a very convenient option. Final result: they are biomechanically inert, permitting a strong, non-irritating skin and electrode connection and a close mixing of a variety of electrical and sensor technologies with the human body on a cellular level.

As a result, older systems are undervalued in favor of newer ones, which show great potential for both sustaining and increasing quality of life. Common components in classic systems include cables, adhesive pads attached to the skin to hold point-contact electrodes, clamps or bands, and piercing needles. In addition, their robust, plain and hard setups and components make them bulky and unsuitable for use outside of medical settings, where they could cause distress, itchiness, and inflammation in the user. With time they also lose adhesion, lack mobility and only permit the monitoring of one physiological signal.


Electronics based on implanted biosensors will soon emerge as a significant biomedical tool. The technology offers a vivid image of the chain of events happening within the body over time to aid in the monitoring of chronic illnesses or the progression following therapy or surgery.

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