WATCH VIDEO: [Under The Skin, A Tiny Laboratory]
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Swiss scientists from the Ã‰cole polytechnique fÃ©dÃ©rale de Lausanne (EPFL) have developed a tiny blood-work laboratory that sits just under the skin and wirelessly transmits results to a patient´s physician.
According to a statement from the EPFL team, the device can detect as many as five proteins and organic acids simultaneously, allowing for a more personalized and immediate level of care than traditional blood test monitoring. The device could be particularly useful for patients with a chronic illness or those undergoing chemotherapy.
A report on the device will be published and presented today at the 2013 Design, Automation and Test in Europe conference (DATE 13), Europe’s largest electronics show.
Developed by a team led by EPFL scientists Giovanni de Micheli and Sandro Carrara, the bio-implant measures only a few millimeters across and operates on a battery that is contained within a patch, which sits on top of the skin and generates 0.1 watts of electricity.
To collect information from a patient´s bloodstream, sensors on the implant are individually coated with an enzyme.
“Potentially, we could detect just about anything,” explains De Micheli. “But the enzymes have a limited lifespan, and we have to design them to last as long as possible.”
The enzymes remain active for about a month and a half — which is long enough to perform the necessary amount of blood work in most cases.
Once the information has been collected, the implant sends information to the skin patch via radio waves. After the patch collects the data, it transmits the information via Bluetooth to a mobile phone, which then sends it on to the doctor over a wireless network.
The scientists emphasized that the device could be particularly useful during chemotherapy treatments since oncologists use periodic blood tests to evaluate their patients’ ability to tolerate a treatment dosage.
De Micheli said the new system will enable a better, more personalized form of chemotherapy.
“It will allow direct and continuous monitoring based on a patient’s individual tolerance, and not on age and weight charts or weekly blood tests,” he said.
For patients who suffer from a chronic condition, the device will be able to detect early warning signs of the condition progressing into a more serious stage.
“In a general sense, our system has enormous potential in cases where the evolution of a pathology needs to be monitored or the tolerance to a treatment tested,” De Micheli said.
The EPFL prototype has been set to test for five different substances, and compared favorably to traditional analysis methods in a laboratory setting, according to the EPFL scientists.
To make the device, the researchers enlisted electronics experts, computer scientists, doctors and biologists from EPFL, and other Swiss institutions, including the Istituto di Ricerca di Bellinzona, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA) and ETHZ, a university in Zurich. The team predicted that the system will be commercially available within four years.