Soon: Tiny medical devices swimming in your blood stream
Engineers at Stanford are developing minute, wirelessly powered, self-propelled devices that could have a range of medical applications

MANILA, Philippines – Devices may soon be swimming in your bloodstream as part of health procedures, thanks to a new creation being developed by engineers at Stanford University.

Electrical engineer Ada Poon, an assistant professor at Stanford, is developing a new class of tiny, wirelessy powered and self-propelled medical devices that can be implanted or injected into a patient’s body, the university said Wednesday, February 22.

These devices are powered using electromagnetic radio waves, thus removing the need for an external battery or for cumbersome wires.

MICROCHIP IN YOUR BODY? An animation of a prototype device that can travel inside the blood stream. The proponets, researchers at Stanford University, hope the technology could soon be used for numerous medical applications. Photo screengrab from a Stanford University video.

The devices being developed by Poon and her team of researchers have the following basic components: a radio transmitter outside the body, and an internal device which receives the signal from the external transmitter through a coiled wire antenna.

The chip, powered wirelessly, can be used for small gadgets that can be implanted in the body, even some that can “swim” through the blood.

Two types of self-propeled devices were developed by the team — one uses electrical current passing through the fluid, while another type “switches current back and forth” to produce a paddling motion.

The proponents are hoping to use the technology soon for numerous applications in biomedicine. Some devices that could be developed using this technology are sensors, ear implants, and probes.

It could also be used for devices that could bring drugs to specific parts of the body, do tests, and even take care of blood clots and plaques in arteries, according to Stanford’s press release.

“There is considerable room for improvement and much work remains before such devices are ready for medical applications,” Poon said. –

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