Scientists at École Polytechnique have developed a tiny, wireless implant that can monitor a patient's blood, sending results to the doctor via Bluetooth to a smartphone app.
A tiny sample of blood can tell medical professionals a lot about what's going on in our bodies. For those that require ongoing monitoring, an ultra-portable new solution has arrived from scientists led by Giovanni de Micheli and Sandro Carrara at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland.
It's a tiny blood analysis laboratory that can be implanted just under the patient's skin. Using five sensors, the 14mm chip can analyse up to five proteins and organic acids simultaneously — then send the results of that analysis directly to the doctor's computer or smartphone.
Although the chip contains a radio transmitter, the transmission of information is through the battery: a patch, much like a nicotine patch, that sits outside the patient's skin and charges the chip via its embedded power coil. The patch also contains a Bluetooth emitter that sends data collected from the chip via cellular network directly to the doctor.
To capture information about the patient's blood — such as glucose and lactate levels — each of the chip's five sensors is coated with an enzyme, which limits what the prototype can currently test. De Micheli explained, "Potentially, we could detect just about anything. But the enzymes have a limited lifespan and we have to design them to last as long as possible." Currently, the enzymes last about six weeks.
Potential uses include monitoring glucose levels in diabetics, as well as maintaining a watch on how well patients tolerate treatment, such as chemotherapy.
The chip is due to be presented at the Design, Automation & Test in Europe (DATE) conference.