EPFL scientists have developed a tiny, portable personal blood testing laboratory that sends data through mobile phone network. This is a tiny device that can analyse the concentration of these substances in the blood. Implanted just beneath the skin, it can detect up to five proteins and organic acids simultaneously, and then transmit the results directly to a doctor’s computer. This method will allow a much more personalized level of care than traditional blood tests can provide. Health care providers will be better able to monitor patients, particularly those with chronic illness or those undergoing chemotherapy. The prototype, still in the experimental stages, has demonstrated that it can reliably detect several commonly traced substances.
The implant is only a few cubic millimetres in volume but 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. 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.
In patients with chronic illness, the implants could send alerts even before symptoms emerge, and anticipate the need for medication. “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.”
The prototype has already been tested in the laboratory for five different substances, and proved as reliable as traditional analysis methods. The project brought together electronics experts, computer scientists, doctors and biologists from EPFL, the Istituto di Ricerca di Bellinzona, EMPA and ETHZ. It is part of the Swiss Nano-Tera program, whose goal is to encourage interdisciplinary research in the environmental and medical fields. Researchers hope the system will be commercially available within 4 years.