UI professor’s LED lights as biomarker progress biomedical research

John Rogers, a University professor in material science and engineering and chemistry, is not working with colorful LED lights to spice up the night life. Instead, he and his research team have created ultra tiny LED lights which can be implanted under the skin for biomedical purposes.

John Rogers, a University professor in material science and engineering and chemistry, is not working with colorful LED lights to spice up the night life. Instead, he and his research team have created ultra tiny LED lights which can be implanted under the skin for biomedical purposes.

“We have developed ways to make LED lights much smaller and integrable with substrates which allows us to implant them under skin for the purpose of biomedical research,” Rogers said.

The lights are very small, about one to two microns in thickness. By comparison, a human hair is about 100 microns in diameter.

When implanted under the skin, these red LED lights are photoactive, which means they emit light and illuminate the surface of tissue, Rogers said.

This process allows researchers to determine the conditions and properties of the tissue and whether it is healthy or problematic.

The tissue exposed to the wavelengths and brightness emitted by the LED lights can help doctors accelerate wound healing and further the development of healthier tissue.

“The lights are very bio-compatible. They are soft, curvy and stretchy, which is why they work well with the human body,” Rogers said.

Rogers has worked for two years with his team developing these LED lights and has been conducting his research for about 10 years.

His team, known as The Rogers Research Group, consists of graduate students, post-doctorate students and several undergraduates.

Along with working at the University at the Materials Research Lab, Rogers’ research has expanded to the east at Tufts University in Boston, Mass.

“Here at the University of Illinois, we are assembling and developing these lights and then shipping them over to Tufts University where they utilize them in their labs,” he said.

Megan Dalton, a senior at Tufts, explained that Roger’s work was well-respected at their university.

“Although I don’t know much about material science research, a lot of people on campus, including myself, have heard about his development. His work is admired by a lot of prospective biomedical engineers at Tufts,” Dalton said.

Along with Tufts University, Rogers and his team are also working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help increase the advances of medicinal and human health.

“The foundation is very interested in third world challenges. We are working with the foundation and putting tiny LED lights on paper chips which will allow us to make medical diagnostics and lead to further advances in the health field,” he said.

As these LED lights can be implanted under human skin and can illuminate a red color, many people often mistake Rogers’ LED lights as illuminative tattoos.

“I have actually received multiple e-mails from people who are volunteering themselves to get these light-up tattoos,” Rogers said.

However, the ultimate goal of these LED lights is at the level of material science and human health.

“The LED lights are to act as diagnostic functions and can be used for drug activation and therapeutic purposes,” he said.

Rogers and his team are still in the early stages of finding ways to utilize LED lights, but are continuing to conduct further research.

“The current research is baseline. I am very happy with the ongoing diagnostic and therapeutic results we have been receiving from this development,” he said.