For those who only get blood tests during routine checkups, needles can be a minor inconvenience. But for patients with chronic illnesses who need to monitor their blood constantly, needles become a real pain. Fortunately, scientists may have found a more sophisticated and less intrusive solution: wireless blood tests.
To do this, researchers at Switzerland's Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne developed a tiny device (about half an inch long) to monitor substances in the blood. The device is implanted, by needle, into tissue just below the surface of the skin in the abdomen, arm, or leg. But after the initial insertion of the device there are no more needles until a replacement is needed, months later. A battery patch worn on the outside of the patient’s skin provides 1/10 watt of power to recharge the device.
Using the device, patients and doctors can wirelessly track up to five substances simultaneously in the blood, with updated numbers sent directly to their phones using radiowaves and Bluetooth technology. The device will be especially useful for patients with diabetes or high cholesterol who need to regularly check the level of certain substances in their blood that are indicative of health status. It could also be used to determine the impact of something like chemotherapy. With easy access to the data, patients could, presumably, avoid trips to the doctor just to get blood drawn. EPFL also says the device can send alerts to patients and doctors before patients feel symptoms.
Currently, the device has only been tested on animals, but the results of those tests have been positive. The developers plan to do tests on intensive care patients soon. Pending those results, they hope to have the device available to patients within four years.