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May 08, 2012

DARPA plans chip implants to monitor the health of soldiers

Mobiledia - Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced plans to create nanosensors that monitor soldiers' health on the battlefield and keep doctors constantly abreast about potential health problems.

DARPA called the implants "a truly disruptive innovation," highlighting how healthier soldiers would change the state of modern warfare because most medical evacuations occur due to ordinary illnesses and disease, not injuries. If the U.S. can lead the way in this kind of high-tech monitoring, it could give the military another leg up on adversaries still beset by everyday illness.

This first announcement focuses on creating nanoparticles capable of diagnosing diseases, but DARPA expects to launch a second effort focused on treatment in late 2012. Once it gathers proposals from private companies and academic researchers, it can begin moving forward with animal trials that might eventually lead to human clinical trials.

At the 2012 International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) Stanford electrical engineer Poon demonstrated a tiny, wirelessly powered, self-propelled medical device capable of controlled motion through a fluid—blood more specifically. The era of swallow-the-surgeon medical care may no longer be the stuff of science fiction.



Poon is an assistant professor at the Stanford School of Engineering. She is developing a new class of medical devices that can be implanted or injected into the human body and powered wirelessly using electromagnetic radio waves. No batteries to wear out. No cables to provide power.

“Such devices could revolutionize medical technology,” said Poon. “Applications include everything from diagnostics to minimally invasive surgeries.”

Certain of these new devices, like heart probes, chemical and pressure sensors, cochlear implants, pacemakers, and drug pumps, would be stationary within the body. Others, like Poon’s most recent creations, could travel through the bloodstream to deliver drugs, perform analyses, and perhaps even zap blood clots or removing plaque from sclerotic arteries.




LiveScience - Disease has stalked battlefields since the dawn of war and continues to plague even the ranks of the modern U.S. military. That's why the Pengaton's scientists want to implant tiny particles inside the bodies of soldiers that could diagnose or even treat illness from within.

The military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced its vision for implantable "nanosensors" on March 15. Such tiny sensors would be based on nanoparticles thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair — a watchful swarm of molecules inside soldiers' bodies that could monitor their health around the clock and keep them healthy on the most remote battlefields.

Solving the problem of sickness could have a huge impact on the number of soldiers ready to fight, because far more have historically died due to illness rather than combat. Even in modern times, battle injuries have accounted for only 20 percent of medical evacuations from Iraq — the U.S. military had to evacuate four times as many troops because of disease and nonbattle injuries.

The futuristic idea might prove especially helpful for U.S. Special Forces who must operate far from any immediate medical help. Nanosensors could alert Special Forces operators if they become exposed to an infectious disease or simply push their bodies beyond their physical limits.


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