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Tiny 'under the skin' blood testing chip

Posted: 25 Mar 2013     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:blood testing device  radio waves  Bluetooth  sensors  radio transmitter 

Scientists at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) have developed a tiny blood testing device that can be implanted under the skin to give an immediate analysis of substances in the body via a mobile phone.

The wireless prototype, which is 14mm long, can detect up to five proteins and organic acids simultaneously. The data is sent directly to a doctor’s computer using radio waves and Bluetooth technology.

The implant includes five sensors, a radio transmitter and a power delivery system. Outside the body, a battery patch provides 1/10 watt of power, through the patient’s skin – thus there’s no need to operate every time the battery needs changing.

To collect data from a patient’s bloodstream, each sensor's surface is coated with an enzyme.

“Potentially, we could detect just about anything,” explained Giovanni de Micheli, one of the two scientists behind this study. “But the enzymes have a limited lifespan, and we have to design them to last as long as possible.”

The enzymes currently being tested are good for about a month and a half, which is already long enough for many applications. “In addition, it’s very easy to remove and replace the implant, since it’s so small.”

Information is routed through a series of stages, from the patient’s body to the doctor’s computer screen. The implant emits radio waves over a safe frequency. The patch collects the data and transmits them via Bluetooth to a mobile phone, which then sends them to the doctor over the cellular network.

"The implant could be particularly useful in chemotherapy applications," Micheli said. "In patients with chronic illness, the implants could send alerts even before symptoms emerge, and anticipate the need for medication."

Researchers hope the system will be commercially available within four years.

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