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Medicine Technology

Wirelessly Powered Medical Implant Propels Itself Through the Bloodstream 37

cylonlover writes "With the wait still on for a miniaturization ray to allow some Fantastic Voyage-style medical procedures by doctors in submarines, tiny electronic implants capable of traveling in the bloodstream show much more promise. While the miniaturization of electronic and mechanical components now makes such devices feasible, the lack of a comparable reduction in battery size has held things back. Now engineers at Stanford University have demonstrated a tiny, self-propelled medical device that would be wirelessly powered from outside the body, enabling devices small enough to move through the bloodstream."
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Wirelessly Powered Medical Implant Propels Itself Through the Bloodstream

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  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Friday February 24, 2012 @03:03PM (#39150837) Journal

    What do you call a small, disabled/inert object flowing through your circulatory system? A stroke waiting to happen.

    • Given that the device will be capable of self-propulsion with the external power source, it should be relatively easy to guide the unit to a specific location for easy extraction. Or have it burrow into the body in a location such that it doesn't move (if the device needs to be reused later on or simply cannot be removed), as creepy as that thought is. I imagine approval for medical usage will require a demonstration of such capability prior to use, as well as a demonstration that the device won't accidenta

      • What happens when shit goes wrong and the device loses power, it will wind up in the lungs (Pulmonary Embolism) or brain (stroke). What fail safe could there possibly be to stop an object from moving freely without stopping the flow of blood around the object.
        • Make it magnetic, maybe? The device fails, you stick a moderately powerful magnet near its location, it's attracted to the magnet and doesn't shift to the lungs or brains. Or perhaps you make it small enough that it won't even get stuck at all (I'm not a doctor or biologist, so I'm not sure how small it would have to be and/or if that is at all practical). Worst case scenario, you design it so it will block bloodflow and not move freely if it fails: a few minutes of a lack of bloodflow to most parts of the

          • by es330td ( 964170 )

            It won't block bloodflow

            If plaque builds up in arteries, why would it not build up on this stationary object in a blood vessel?

    • A stroke is in the brain. There's no way this would get through the blood-brain barrier.

      If something like this did conk out somewhere in the body, perhaps you could prevent it from circulating with an external magnet.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by izomiac ( 815208 )
        The blood brain barrier refers to the tight junctions between endothelial cells in the capillaries of the brain. With age these junctions loosen. Here [wikipedia.org] is a scanning electron microscope picture of such a capillary.

        A stroke generally involves a macroscopic embolus getting stuck in an artery in the brain. As-in a pathologist can often physically find it during an autopsy (I once heard of one that showed how one fit together with a thrombus in the leg much like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle). The scale o
    • Applications aside for the moment, I am absolutely amazed that the propagation of RF energy through the body was so wrongly understood previous to this. With all the types of imaging and treatments that involve radiation, from x-rays to airport mm wave scanners to radiotherapy, how can it be nobody had tested frequencies in this range? I'm sure the cellphones-cause-cancer crowd will be fascinated to hear that the optimum frequency for tissue penetration is around 1 GHz, which just happens to be in the mid
    • Give it a rotating saw, it will cut right through the cholesterol. Hell, when they get cheap enough, put them on patrol searching for future blockages.

    • by Fned ( 43219 )

      Pish tosh, simply have tiny electromagnets, holding back, spring-loaded barbs. The moment the device loses power, it immediately anchors itself, implacable, in the blood-vessel walls! Why, any child could have come up with this, both simple, and elegant, solution!

  • oh no (Score:3, Funny)

    by formfeed ( 703859 ) on Friday February 24, 2012 @03:04PM (#39150855)

    First thing that came to my mind was the Breeding cycle of the black helicopter [zapatopi.net]

    I should get out more

  • Cool but ... ? (Score:4, Informative)

    by RNLockwood ( 224353 ) on Friday February 24, 2012 @03:05PM (#39150859) Homepage

    What's that word I'm looking for? Ah, yes, embolism. That's what it's called if it get's stuck in too small artery.

  • by L3370 ( 1421413 ) on Friday February 24, 2012 @03:08PM (#39150899)
    While we wait for nanobatteries, we could ditch the battery supply altogether and use external magnetic forces to propel it through the vessels. Maybe an MRI unit with some tweaks? Then harness the energy of rushing/flowing blood to power the sensors taking readings.
  • by Extremus ( 1043274 ) on Friday February 24, 2012 @03:14PM (#39150963)

    I gave a look at the article, but didn't find any mention to a working prototype. Since the device requires a new model of human tissue to be right, it will be nice if they could test the model first.

  • I mean the article says that this thing is a long way off before being ready for medical applications in the field.
    So, before we freak out and sit out pacemakers next to the microwave and everything, we should take a deep breath and calm the fuck down.
    They realize there are things to work out but for now the headline should state the scientists think it is now feasible and probable.
    I think we should all return to make jokes about Raquel Welch and the scientist whose name is Poon.
  • ... a tiny Raquel Welch?

    Anyone know if there's going to be a remake of "Fantastic Voyage"? Even though the Futurama spoof was more scientifically accurate (sentient worms?) I found it to be less emotionally thrilling because the characters lives weren't really at stake.

  • The use of wireless power as the means to power tiny medical devices is a head-slapping "obvious" in my opinion... except for one thing... it never occurred to me though I am aware of wireless power and aware of the battery size (power density) problems of batteries.

    In short "Why didn't *I* think of that?!" The answer to the rhetorical question is that I'm not such a genius at all...

  • How soon before we can turn this into some sort of weapon?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I saw the project presented at ISSCC (International Solid State Circuits Conference) earlier this week. It really is basic research into feasibility rather than an attempt at a true implantable device and at that level is pretty cool.

    The device receives both power and control from an external transmitter. It has two modes of locomotion: magnetohydrodynamic (think Red October instead of Fantastic Voyage) and another where it pivots on different points to pull itself forward. Both modes were demonstra

Things are not as simple as they seems at first. - Edward Thorp