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An electronic device that can be implanted in a tumor uses the energy from ultrasound signals to generate oxygen, boosting the effectiveness of radiation and chemotherapy.

The ultrasonically powered implantable micro oxygen generator (IMOG) is designed to treat solid tumors that are hypoxic at the core, achieving in situ tumor oxygenation through water electrolysis: The IMOG receives ultrasound signals and uses the energy to generate a small voltage to separate oxygen and hydrogen from water. 

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This active mode of oxygen generation is not affected by increased interstitial pressure or abnormal blood vessels, conditions that typically limit the systemic delivery of oxygen to hypoxic regions of solid tumors.

The scientists from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis who created the IMOG tested the devices in pancreatic tumors implanted in mice. Adequate in situ tumor oxygenation occurred in less than 10 minutes.

“Pancreatic and cervical cancers are notoriously hypoxic,” commented Babak Ziaie, professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering at Purdue, in a statement announcing his group’s work, which is further described in an online report for IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering

“If you generate oxygen you can increase the effectiveness of radiation therapy and also chemotherapy.”

The IMOG is small enough to be implanted using a hypodermic needle or a trocar. ONA