Tommaso Melodia, a Northeastern Engineering professor is trying to develop miniature implantable devices that can sense and communicate via sound waves. Bionet Sonar, the director of Northeastern’s Institute for the wireless internet of things believes that the technology will be able to treat a broad range of ailments which includes diabetes, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and even heart conditions.
Whereas, the traditional pacemakers or any other wireless medical devices make use of electromagnetic radio waves to communicate. These waves when travel through water get absorbed into it hence, they find it difficult to communicate further.
In order to transmit signals without interruption it is required to use Lead cables. These are special wires that restrict absorption but still have chances of getting infected or broken. This inefficiency led patients to undergo surgeries periodically to replace batteries. On identifying the drawback with the sound wave’s technology, Melodia says,” We’re using ultrasonic waves—frequencies that cannot be heard—to carry information between different implantable medical devices.”
Melodia and his research group hope to begin their testing on ultrasonic pacemakers by the end of the year. With ultrasonic pacemakers, patients are exposed less to hackers.
It is believed that patients with diabetics could benefit from a parallel system. On implanting a glucose-measuring sensor it would frequently send signals to the other device. The internal pump would return with the required dose of insulin in order to save the patient. It is also expected that people with certain neurological conditions can make use of this technology.
Melodia says, “If this technology became the basis of miniaturized implantable devices that don’t exist today, it could help save lives.”
He confesses that the device is still under testing with models that resemble human tissues and will soon be tried on animals. It is said that “testing on humans is a long way off but still there are beautiful prototypes that work great.”