May 2024 edition: Intuitive’s DV5, pediatric device design and diabetes tech


The Intuitive da Vinci 5’s top design changes: ‘This is groundbreaking for robotic surgery’ Small patients, big design challenges: Pediatric device experts guide engineers on solutions The biggest diabetes tech news out of ATTD 2024 5 things that will shape surgical robotics over the next decade All eyes on Intuitive’s da Vinci 5

It’s hard to think of a product update with higher stakes for a device developer — and the medtech industry — than Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci 5 robotic-assisted surgery system.

All eyes are on the world’s leading surgical robotics developer as it rolls out the next generation of its flagship system after winning FDA clearance. Will the new features and long list of design changes put even more distance between surgical robotics and conventional laparoscopy? Is Intuitive advancing its technology rapidly enough to maintain or expand its lead ahead of larger device manufacturers, maturing surgical robotics developers and fas…

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Injectable hydrogel could save lives of kids with deadly heart defects

Jervaughn Hunter, the paper’s first author, left, with his Ph.D. adviser, UC San Diego bioengineering professor Karen Christman, in the lab. They took part in the research establishing a hydrogel as a potential mitigation for right ventricle damage. [Image courtesy of UCSD]

Researchers say an injectable hydrogel could mitigate damage to the right ventricle of the heart with chronic pressure overload.

The research came out of the University of California San Diego, Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University. Investigators published their work in Journals of the American College of Cardiology: Basic to Translational Science. 

For this study, they used rodents, but a 2019 FDA-approved Phase 1 trial demonstrated the hydrogel’s safety in humans who suffered a heart attack. As a result of the new preclinical study, the FDA approved an investigational new drug application (NDA). The teams …

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Implant prototype collects deep neural activity from the brain’s surface

When placed on the surface of the brain, this thin, flexible implant enables researchers to capture high-resolution information about neural activity deep inside the brain without damaging its delicate tissue. [Image courtesy of David Baillot/UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering]

Researchers at UCSD say they developed a neural implant that can gather information about activity deep inside the brain while sitting on its surface.

The UCSD team used a thin, transparent and flexible polymer strip packed with a dense array of graphene electrodes. They tested the technology in transgenic mice and say it brings them a step closer to building a minimally invasive brain-computer interface (BCI) that provides high-resolution deep neural activity data by using recordings from the brain surface.

“We are expanding the spatial reach of neural recordings with this technology,” said study senior author Duygu Kuzum,…

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New sensor manufacturing method developed for deep brain activity

The electrodes are equipped with 128 sensors that can record extremely localized brain signals and 16 stimulation contacts that can deliver clinical grade stimulation currents and that can additionally record brain signals. [Image courtesy of UCSD]

Researchers at the University of California San Diego used a new manufacturing approach to build sensors capable of recording activity deep within the brain.

Such technology could bring wireless monitoring of patients with treatment-resistant epilepsy for extended periods of time (up to 30 days) as they go about their daily lives.

Researchers also see broader applications, potentially helping those with Parkinson’s disease, movement disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, obesity, treatment-resistant depression, high-impact chronic pain and other disorders.

These sensors can record activity from large populations of individual neurons, with a re…

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This sensor tech could use sweat to measure glucose levels

Persperion’s noninvasive glucose-sensing test strip requires only sweat from the touch of a finger to measure a user’s glucose level, and provide a readout on the handheld device. [Prototype rendering courtesy of Persperion.]

A startup working on sensor technology developed at UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering brought in $4 million in venture capital seed funding.

The team aims to commercialize a sweat-based diagnostic platform technology. The initial product, a non-nvasive glucose test, uses omnipresent sweat on fingertips to measure glucose levels. This removes the need for people with diabetes to use painful fingerpricks.

Lu Yin and Alan Liu lead Persperion in developing the technology developed in a nanoengineering lab at UCSD. They aim to develop something that can detect a variety of biomarkers through sweat, beginning with glucose levels. This sensor uses trace amounts of sweat…

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Researchers develop bacteria that can detect tumor DNA

As seen in a dish, Acinetobacter baylyi (green) bacteria surround clumps of colorectal cancer cells. Credit: Josephine Wright/UC San Diego

Scientists at the University of California San Diego, along with colleagues in Australia, engineered bacteria capable of detecting the presence of tumor DNA in a live organism.

Previously, bacteria could perform diagnostic and therapeutic functions, according to the UC San Diego website. However, they lacked the ability to identify specific DNA sequences and mutations outside of cells.

The researchers say this innovation could create a pathway to new biosensors capable of identifying various infections, cancers and diseases. This “Cellular Assay for Targeted CRISPR-discriminated Horizontal gene transfer,” or “CATCH,” demonstrated success in detecting cancer in the colons of mice.

“As we started on this project four years ago, we weren’t even sure if using b…

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Robotic hand uses low-cost touch sensors instead of vision

The four-fingered robotic hand has 16 touch sensors. [Image via UCSD]

Engineers at the University of California San Diego developed a new approach allowing a robotic hand to rotate objects solely through touch.

The UCSD method enables a robotic hand to do so without relying on vision. Using their technique, the engineers built a hand that can smoothly rotate a range of objects, including small toys and cans. It can rotate fruits and vegetables without squishing them as well, accomplishing its tasks using only information based on touch.

According to UCSD, the team believes the work could help develop robots that can manipulate objects in the dark.

To build the system, the team attached 16 touch sensors (which cost about $12 apiece) to the palm and fingers of a four-fingered robotic hand. These sensors detect whether an object is touching the robotic hand. The low-cost, low-resolution touch sensors…

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80-cent device prototype uses smartphone to monitor blood pressure

A 3D-printed device that clips onto a smartphone can take blood pressure readings. [Photo courtesy of University of California San Diego]

University of California San Diego engineers have prototyped an inexpensive device that clips onto a smartphone to monitor a user’s blood pressure.

The 3D-printed device uses the smartphone’s camera and flash paired with an algorithm on an app to take systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings.

“We’ve created an inexpensive solution to lower the barrier to blood pressure monitoring,” study first author Yinan (Tom) Xuan, an electrical and computer engineering Ph.D. student at UCSD, said in a news release.

Xuan published the team’s findings this week in Scientific Reports with senior author and electrical and computer engineering professor Edward Wang, who’s also director of the UCSD Digital Health Lab.

“Because of their low cost…

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Wearable ultrasound researchers report breakthrough in deep tissue monitoring

This wearable ultrasound device for monitoring tissue stiffness measures 23 mm x 20 mm x 0.8 mm. [Photo courtesy of University of California San Diego]

Wearable ultrasound researchers have developed a stretchable ultrasonic array for serial, noninvasive, 3-D tissue imaging with a penetration depth of up to 4 cm.

The latest device out of Sheng Xu’s lab at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) is able to frequently evaluate the stiffness of human tissue. It could be used to measure the progression of cancer, to monitor muscles, tendons and ligaments, and assess the effectiveness of liver and cardiovascular treatments.

Xu is commercializing the technology through a UCSD spinoff called Softsonics.

“We integrated an array of ultrasound elements into a soft elastomer matrix and used wavy serpentine stretchable electrodes to connect these elements, enabling the device to conform to human sk…

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UCSD researchers develop injectable biomaterial for tissue healing

The biomaterial is based on a hydrogel that Christman’s lab developed. [Image courtesy of UCSD]

Researchers at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) developed a new biomaterial that promotes cell and tissue repair.

The injectable biomaterial reduces inflammation and promotes repair, the UCSD researchers say. Testing proved it effective in treating tissue damage caused by heart attacks in both rodent and large animal models. Researchers also provided proof of concept in a rodent model that the biomaterial could benefit patients with traumatic brian injury and pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Karen Christman, professor of bioengineering at UCSD, and lead researcher on the team that developed the material, said they could begin a study on the biomaterial’s safety and efficacy in human subjects within 1-2 years. The team presented its findings in the Dec. 29 issue of Nature Biomedical Eng…

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UCSD researchers develop wearable ultrasound device

The UCSD wearable cardiac sensor technology. [Image courtesy of David Baillot, Jacobs School of Engineering, UC San Diego]

Engineers and physicians at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) developed a wearable ultrasound device for assessing heart function and structure.

The device, roughly the size of a postage stamp, features a wear time of up to 24 hours and works during strenuous exercise.

According to the university, the researchers aim to make ultrasound more accessible to a larger population. Sheng Xu, a professor of nanoengineering at UCSD, leads the project. Details of the work done so far published in the Jan. 25 issue of the journal Nature.

“The technology enables anybody to use ultrasound imaging on the go,” Xu said.

Researchers say that, thanks to custom AI algorithms, the device can measure how much blood the heart pumps.

The wearable monitoring system uses ultr…

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‘UCSD researchers develop electronic hemoglobin-monitoring patch’


A photoacoustic sensor could help clinicians diagnose tumors, organ malfunctions and more. [Image courtesy of Xiaoxiang Gao for the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego (UCSD)]

University of California San Diego (UCSD) researchers developed an electronic patch that can monitor biomolecules in deep tissues.


The technology can monitor hemoglobin, providing medical professionals with access to crucial information for spotting life-threatening conditions. This includes malignant tumors, organ dysfunction, cerebral or gut hemorrhages and more.


Researchers published a paper on the developments in the December 15, 2022 issue of Nature Communications.


“The amount and location of hemoglobin in the body provide critical information about blood perfusion or accumulation in specific locations. Our device shows great potential in close monitoring of high-risk groups, enabling timely intervent…

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