In a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a biochemical engineering research headed by Assistant Professor Ada Poon from the Stanford School of Engineering has devised a way to power up electric programmable devices implanted within the body wirelessly. The device can be recharged using a gadget similar in size to a credit card, which is hovered outside the body when need be.
The chips, which is comparable in size to a grain of rice was proposed to be placed beside tissues such as the nerves and muscles. These medical chips may be customized to perform a specific function such as drug delivery. Being able to transmit power outside of the body, the device allows for a one time implantation technique for devices such as the pacemaker. This innovation is part of a novel technique in medical therapy, which utilizes the use of “electroceutical” devices to treat diseases and illnesses. It may also be useful for pain relief. It revolves around the principle which allows physicians to alternatively use electrical devices rather than pharmaceutical modalities in their clinical management and practice.
This breakthrough in biochemical engineering has created a novel type of energy transfer which can effectively transmit energy safely across the body. The wireless charging system was used in laboratory animals including pigs and rabbits with favorable results. Poon is currently working on testing the device in human subjects. However, although the technology is rather advanced, it may still take a long time, maybe years, to establish the safety of the medical device in humans.
Assistant Professor Poon states that this new discovery may be the key to opening the door for the development of a new breed of biomedical science innovations such as programmable microimplants which can be engineered to perform various functions such as drug administration, vital signs monitoring, checking the vital functions of the body and brain signal stimulation, among others.
Director of the Stanford Neurosciences Institute, William Newsome, acknowledged Poon’s work and stated that these alternative treatment modalities may have the potential to be better and more efficacious than existing pharmaceutical strategies, especially in disorders of the brain. Unlike drugs which act nonspecifically, he said, “electroceutical” treatments are able to deliver the desired drug to a specific site in the brain.