Tiny dust-sized wireless sensors could one day be implanted in the human body to monitor the health of the organs.
Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have successfully implanted rats with such sensors to monitor nerves and muscles.
The dust-sized sensor is just one millimeter cubed and has been introduced in the nerves and muscles of mice. With the use of ultrasound waves, they are then able to extract information about how healthy the body parts are. The ultrasound can also be used to read the measurements.
This new technology can be used to stimulate the immune system and gives a new possibility to treating disorders like epilepsy.
This experiment has only involved the muscles and the peripheral nervous system so far, but researchers say that this could also work on the central nervous system and the brain to control prosthetics.
In a newspaper published in 2013 researchers estimated that they would be able to shrink the sensor to half the width of a human hair. Now the sensors are small enough to be inserted in the nervous system to suppress appetite, for example, or to control the bladder.
While chips have been used on other animals or humans before, the sensor now brings an impressive improvement because it is smaller, wireless, doesn’t work on batteries and could remain in the human body for years without degrading.
While still hypothetical, the benefits of this technology used on humans are encouraging. These wireless sensors would allow physicians to create new cures for neurological disorders and better control the health of their patients.
Aside from the uses in medicine, the dust-sized wireless sensor could represent the next-level health monitoring system for the fitness enthusiasts.
Whether people will agree to this kind of invasive technology is another aspect. The Pew Research Center found that people are skeptical when it comes to biomedical technology and implants.
The goal of this project was to create the next generation of brain-machine interfaces. By implanting this dust-sized sensor in the brain of a paraplegic, he would then be able to control a robotic arm or a computer. The beauty of this new technology is that the implant could last a lifetime.
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