Swiss develop multitasking, implantable Dx chip

Swiss researchers have come up with an innovative new diagnostic: a tiny implant that would measure multiple substances in the blood and transmit that data wirelessly to a mobile phone or doctor's computer. Got high cholesterol? Are doctors curious how well you're responding to chemotherapy? This miniature, implantable laboratory would theoretically address both, and more.

Plans call for testing the device in humans within the next three years, Sando Carrera, one of the study's lead researchers, told FierceMedicalDevices via email.

A year after that, the team envisions hitting the commercial market. Multiple technology transfer options are on the table, Carrera added, with "a couple of good collaborations" already in the mix. While they'll definitely seek regulatory approval in the European Union, a U.S. strategy is uncertain at this time.

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, the Istituto di Ricerca di Bellinzona, Empa and ETHZ developed the technology. They were to present their research at DATE 13, Europe's largest electronics conference.

It's not a large diagnostic device--only 5 cubic millimeters. But it contains 5 sensors, a radio transmitter and a power-delivery system, the researchers explain. A battery patch outside the body supplies 1/10 of a watt of power through the skin. As the BBC explains, the idea is to insert the implant just under the skin in the arms, legs or abdomen, using a needle, and it can remain for several months. It's designed to detect as many as 5 different proteins and organic acids at the same time--unique compared to other similar devices now under development because it multitasks.

And while more clinical testing is necessary, the scientific team behind the work sees such a test as a useful way to track diabetes or high cholesterol over time. There's also the possibility to advance the field of personalized medicine in cancer treatment using the tiny implant. The research team pictures using their diagnostic device to track how well chemotherapy is working--allowing for an ongoing or random look. Based on the results, doctors can adjust the chemo drugs accordingly for maximum benefit.

All of this would be a big boost from the existing standard of care, which as the BBC points out includes regular blood tests and treatments based on things like weight or age, rather than how well a patient is responding to, or tolerating, a given drug.

- read the release
- here's the BBC's take