Imaging having sensors that can monitor how tumors respond to treatment or ones that can gauge the severity of heart attacks? It would be pretty easy to implant the device into a patient. During a biopsy, the device could be implanted with a needle and then reveal what is happening inside the body.
Michael Cima at MIT tells New Scientist that, "with this, we are going to bring the laboratory to the patient."
To detect what's going on, you'd use an MRI scan...but eventually you'd want to use something more portable like a handheld scanner.
In the lab, when mice were injected with human cancer cells, the MRI could detect if the tumor was growing or not. To see if the sensor had more applications, the scientists basically gave the mice heart attacks to see if the sensor could pick up on the damage.
As more protein accumulated, the researchers were able to tell which mice had more severe heart attacks by watching the strength of the MRI signal.
The device is nothing more than magnetic nanoparticles that contain proteins that are designed to bind to molecules in the body. But not just any molecules. For instance, the proteins can bind to the hormones that are overproduced when testicular and ovarian cancers are present.
The applications go beyond detecting heart disease and cancer. Imagine having a sensor that could keep tabs on glucose levels in diabetic patients.
Photo: Michael Cima at MIT
Implantable sensor tracks cancer in the body [New Scientist]