Swiss scientists have developed a 14mm implant — barely over half an inch — that monitors chemicals in the blood and warns of an impending heart attack. Scientists at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) say the device sends data wirelessly by Bluetooth to a computer or smartphone for tracking.
The tiny device is implanted just beneath the skin by a needle and has five sensors that can detect up to five proteins or organic acids. In addition to an immediate warning of an impending heart attack, it can also continuously monitor diseases such as diabetes without the use of needles, and provide more individualized treatment for cancer patients.
In the case of cardiovascular disease, oxygen-starved muscle in the heart begins to break down hours before the actual heart attack occurs. Tiny bits of troponin, a heart-specific smooth muscle protein, are released into the bloodstream. If warning signs, such as troponin, can be detected before a full-blown heart attack, lifesaving medical treatment can be started sooner.
In addition to the sensors, the device also contains a radio transmitter and a small electrical coil that receives power from a battery patch outside the body that sends power through the patients' skin. This technique eliminates the need to operate when batteries wear out, like in the case of current cardiac pacemakers.
Researchers believe the device could be used to detect and monitor many medical conditions and treatments. “Potentially, we could detect just about anything,” said EPFL scientist Giovanni de Micheli in a news release. “In addition, it’s very easy to remove and replace the implant, since it’s so small.”
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