Tiny Medical Implants That Can Travel Through Bloodstream Now Possible

Technology has made it possible for scientists and researchers to develop medical devices that are smaller and smaller. The tiniest of such devices can be used as medical implants to deliver medication or for monitoring. But for the most part, such existing medical devices are only implanted on a fixed part of the body. But now, researchers from the Stanford School of Engineering may have developed a proof of concept design that would make way for a new class of tiny medical devices that can travel through the bloodstream and into the different parts of the body.

Ada Poon, Assistant Professor at the Department of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, along with a team of Stanford engineers, has developed a proof of concept self-propelled micro-implants that can travel through the bloodstream. The Stanford team has demonstrated that such a device can possibly be made, can be powered wit5hout the use of wires and batteries, and can be small enough to travel through the bloodstream and can fit through the blood vessels.

Ada Poon has demonstrated recently before an audience at the International Solid –State Circuits Conference, a small wirelessly powered medical device that is capable of propelling itself through a fluid. The concept relies on electromagnetic radio waves to both power and control the tiny medical devices that can be implanted or injected into the human body. Through this method, the tiny implant need not have batteries built-in that can wear out or wires to connect to them for control.

The idea for implantable micro medical devices is not entirely new. But certain challenges like batteries that can be made just as small have limited the development of such idea. But with Prof. Poon able to find a means to provide the device with power wirelessly made it more possible. It took Prof. Poon and her team looking differently at the challenges than what was previously known.

The challenge behind making micro medical implants work lie on how researchers previously believed high frequency signals behaved with human tissue. It was a long-held assumption that high frequency electromagnetic radio waves can dissipate quickly when moving through human tissue, fading to a certain degree the deeper they have to pass through. Prof. Poon had to change the previous assumptions and discovered that high frequency radio signals actually travels into human tissue much farther and with little of its signal getting lost along the way.

Armed with this new assumption, Prof. Poon and her team were able to develop a device that measures three mm wide and four mm long. Its ability to source power wirelessly via high frequency electromagnetic radio waves has made such tiny dimensions for the micro devices possible. Currently, the device remains a proof of concept and may require further study and rigorous testing with regards to its possible functions such as delivering medication or as an internal monitoring or diagnostic device.

Source: Stanford University News

 

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