Medical Microchip Makes Waves For Medicine
A few months ago a fully functioning artificial heart was placed in the body of a seventy-six-year-old man.
He was told he had only days to live due to his damaged heart’s inability to pump blood through his body. Through an amazing feat of technology, however, he was saved.
There was no excruciatingly long transplant list, no organ donor. There was no family out there mourning their recent loss of a loved one as well as coping with the emotional turmoil behind organ donation. The background sadness that typically clouds a transplant was nonexistent, and this man could live and experience life much longer than he ever expected was possible.
Unfortunately, he recently passed away for reasons still unknown. But the idea of implementing man-made devices as solutions to faulty bodily function has opened the door to all kinds of new innovations, particularly a wireless microchip developed by an electrical engineer from Stanford.
The “wireless system” sends energy comparable to the strength of a cell phone directly into a pea-sized microchip.
Bear with me here as I attempt to explain such a “wireless system” with my limited scientific knowledge.
All objects emit electromagnetic waves. There are two types of waves: far field waves, which can travel long distances but reflect off a human body, and near field waves, which can penetrate the skin yet are unable to stretch far enough to do any good. Ada Poon, some kind of genius mad scientist, was able to combine the two waves into what she calls “mid-field wireless transfer,” which can travel far and send power into the tiny device.
This microchip will live somewhere deep inside the body, most likely in your heart or brain.
A pacemaker is an incredible tool that stimulates the heart muscle, but it comes with sizable batteries and a charger that make the entire process uncomfortable for the patient. The microchip would take its place and recharge itself wirelessly without harming the person or anyone else, which pretty much beats all cellphones, computers, and other technology we use everyday. I still have to stuff what feels like twenty different chargers in my backpack before I leave the house.
William Newsome, the director of the Stanford Neurosciences Institute, sees a future in exchanging drugs for specific disorders with the wireless technology, which he coined “electroceutical treatment.” Doctors would implant the device in a patient’s brain, where it could specifically treat one area compared to the widespread treatment from medication. Someday in the future, it’s possible that depression could easily be treated with this device rather than a daily pill that alters your entire mood.
The system has already been tested in a pig and was used to charge a pacemaker in a rabbit. Eventually, the product will be ready for humans, which means in a few years the device could be up and running.
This is the medicine of the future, a way to save and better our lives without the baggage of excessive operations, batteries or pills.
Featured photo courtesy of: drleonardcaldwell.com