From: California Institute of Technology
Published September 12, 2017 01:05 PM

Medicine of the Future: New Microchip Technology Could Be Used to Track Smart Pills

Researchers at Caltech have developed a prototype miniature medical device that could ultimately be used in "smart pills" to diagnose and treat diseases. A key to the new technology—and what makes it unique among other microscale medical devices—is that its location can be precisely identified within the body, something that proved challenging before.

"The dream is that we will have microscale devices that are roaming our bodies and either diagnosing problems or fixing things," says Azita Emami, the Andrew and Peggy Cherng Professor of Electrical Engineering and Medical Engineering and Heritage Medical Research Institute Investigator, who co-led the research along with Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering and Heritage Medical Research Institute Investigator Mikhail Shapiro. "Before now, one of the challenges was that it was hard to tell where they are in the body."

A paper describing the new device appears in the September issue of the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering. The lead author is Manuel Monge (MS '10, PhD '17), who was a doctoral student in Emami's lab and a Rosen Bioengineering Center Scholar at Caltech, and now works at a company called Neuralink. Audrey Lee-Gosselin, a research technician in Shapiro's lab, is also an author.

Called ATOMS, which is short for addressable transmitters operated as magnetic spins, the new silicon-chip devices borrow from the principles of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), in which the location of atoms in a patient's body is determined using magnetic fields. The microdevices would also be located in the body using magnetic fields—but rather than relying on the body's atoms, the chips contain a set of integrated sensors, resonators, and wireless transmission technology that would allow them to mimic the magnetic resonance properties of atoms.

Read more at California Institute of Technology

Image: Illustration of an ATOMS microchip localized within the gastrointestinal tract. The chip, which works on principles similar to those used in MRI machines, is embodied with the properties of nuclear spin. (Credit: Ella Marushchenko for Caltech)

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