Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sorry, wrong number

Can you just hang up and it will go away?

World's smallest blood monitoring implant tells your smartphone when you're about to have a heart attack -

A team of scientists at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have developed the world’s smallest medical implant to monitor critical chemicals in the blood. The 14mm device measures up to five indicators, including proteins like troponin, that show if and when a heart attack has occurred. Using Bluetooth, the device can then transmit the data to a smartphone for tracking. The device can also track levels of glucose, lactate, and ATP, providing valuable data for physiologic monitoring during activity, or in possible disease conditions like diabetes. As far as tricorders go, this device may be the one you have been waiting for, provided you are on board for the implant.

Outside the body, a battery patch provides the 100 milliwatts of power that the device requires by wireless inductive charging through the skin.(See: How wireless charging works.) Each sensor is coated with an enzyme that reacts with blood-borne chemicals to generate a detectable signal. For patient monitoring, a device like this would quickly become indispensable once introduced. In cancer treatment for example, exact dosing is critical. Numerous blood tests are often required to calibrate the treatment according the to the patient’s particular ability to break down and excrete the drug. Often these parameters change when the disease, or the therapy, directly affects the organs involved in these processes — typically this would mean the liver and the kidneys.

Often in the hours before a heart attack, fatigued or oxygen-starved muscle begins to break down, and fragments of a heart-specific smooth muscle protein, the troponin mentioned above, are dumped into the blood. If this can be detected before disruption of the heart rhythm, or the actual attack, lifesaving preemptive treatment can be initiated sooner. To be fail-safe, this depends on the patient having access to their data. Dependence on the integrity of multiple weak links to the cloud, to the doctor, and back again — as is often the prescribed future care scenario — are unacceptable, particularly when heart attacks might be counted on to occur precisely at those times when those links may not be there. Assuming the battles for patient rights will be won sooner rather than later, the next important choice would be getting the proper ringtone when that fateful troponin call comes. A standard ringtone with universal appeal would let bystanders know what was going on and assistance could, at least in theory, be had.

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