Archived: Could ‘electroceuticals’ soon replace drugs?

pharmaEngineers at Stanford University have developed a new technology that permits deeper, permanent implantation of microchip devices, paving the way towards a new field of health in which electronics could replace drugs.

They have created a wireless charge system for medical implants, circumventing problems of size and charge that previously limited the battery’s practicality.

The battery, whose invention fulfilled the sci-fi fantasies of the 1800s, had until now become the million-dollar hurdle in the fields of bio-medical and electrical engineering.

Dependent on electromagnetic charge, pace-makers and other implants necessitated complicated, often dangerous surgeries for installation in the body and removal at the end of their life-cycle.

“We need to make these devices as small as possible to more easily implant them deep in the body and create new ways to treat illness and alleviate pain,” says Ada Poon, an assistant professor of electrical engineering.

The method of charging the devices is roughly similar to how a cellular tower powers phones, sending a complex cocktail of magnetic waves from the air to deep beneath the skin.

Poon calls her team’s development Mid-Field Wireless Transfer and says it is the interaction of waves of various lengths that change in quality after passing into the body. The discoveries were reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Highlights of Poon’s work include implanting and powering a pace-maker, roughly the same size as a grain of rice, in a rabbit.

The implant is recharged by holding a credit-card sized device close to the skin.

At present, no safety concerns have been raised about Poon’s inventions.

– AFP Relaxnews