Researchers have developed a thin, flexible self-powered device that is implantable and bioresorbable, so once the bone is knitted back together, the device’s components dissolve within the body.

To create the new fracture electrostimulation device, or FED, they started with a triboelectric nanogenerator, and coupled it with a pair of electrodes to distribute the electric field to the bone. They built these ultrathin, biodegradable, and bioresorbable components on a substrate of poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid), a commonly used FDA-approved biocompatible polymer.

Initial tests confirmed that small movements of the device created an electrical stimulation of about 4 V, which it could sustain for over six weeks. Animals implanted with the device completely recovered from a tibia fracture in about six weeks, much more quickly than animals in a control group. The mineral density and flexural strength of the healed bones also reached the same level as healthy bones in the animals that received the electrostimulation. After the treatment, the devices degraded and absorbed into the rats’ bodies with no complications and no need for surgical removal.

It’s possible to fine-tune how long the stimulator will last within the body — from weeks to months — by tweaking the properties of the bioresorbable material coating the device.

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