March 25, 2013
A team of scientists at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have developed the world’s smallest medical implant to monitor critical chemicals in the blood. The 14mm device measures up to five indicators, including proteins like troponin, that show if and when a heart attack has occurred. Using Bluetooth, the device can then transmit the data to a smartphone for tracking. The device can also track levels of glucose, lactate, and ATP, providing valuable data for physiologic monitoring during activity, or in possible disease conditions like diabetes. As far as tricorders go, this device may be the one you have been waiting for, provided you are on board for the implant.
Outside the body, a battery patch provides the 100 milliwatts of power that the device requires by wireless inductive charging through the skin.(See: How wireless charging works.) Each sensor is coated with an enzyme that reacts with blood-borne chemicals to generate a detectable signal. For patient monitoring, a device like this would quickly become indispensable once introduced. In cancer treatment for example, exact dosing is critical. Numerous blood tests are often required to calibrate the treatment according the to the patient’s particular ability to break down and excrete the drug. Often these parameters change when the disease, or the therapy, directly affects the organs involved in these processes — typically this would mean the liver and the kidneys.