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Future of diagnostics - Implanted diagnostic chip
Diagnostics for chronic patients as well as patients undergoing treatment are very important. Blood diagnostics however, are expensive, require time, and cause inconvenience to the patients.

For a while now, researchers have considered implants as potential future diagnostic tools, implanting chip-sized laboratories into the patients and receiving results electronically. The chip could be implanted into several places, with different diagnostic capabilities providing most, if not all, necessary test results to the doctor, without ever inconveniencing the patient and all that much faster than conventional blood diagnostics. Such chips are in development now at several sites, but they all face several complications. Some of them include the life-span of the enzymes used on the chips, immune response-rejection problems and safety issues with the result-transmitting method.

EPFL scientists have recently developed one of these implants that might enter clinical use in just a few years. This tiny chip-sized laboratory can be implanted into patients undergoing treatment that requires continual blood testing, like, for example, chemotherapy. This chip can analyze several blood-testing parameters, and then transmit them directly to the doctor’s phone, using mobile phone networks. Swiss EPFL in Lausanne has developed this chip, and now is moving to testing it in model systems. They say it provides great news for patients suffering from chronic states such as diabetes, but not only for patients, as this new approach will ease diagnostic methods and make them more available, doctors will also benefit from increased efficacy and functionality.

This implant offers a plausible alternative while non-invasive diagnostic sensor methods are in development, say the scientists at Swiss EPFL. Non-invasive sensors can potentially be used to diagnose patients without submitting them to blood and histological tests. But this approach is yet to be fully developed and begin testing, so the scientists are looking for an alternative until then.

Each of the 5 sensor's surfaces can be covered with an enzyme that allows detecting a blood metabolite or with an antibody that captures specific protein markers. The chip's sensors, only a few cubic centimeters wide, can trace blood glucose, proteins, ATP or organic acids such as lactate simultaneously, Giovanni de Micheli and Sandro Carrara announced at DATE 13, Europe's largest electronics conference.

Potentially, we could detect just about anything," explains De Micheli. "But the enzymes have a limited lifespan." For now, the enzymes studded on the surface of the chip have a life span of roughly a month and a half, more than enough for many applications.

“After the measurement, the implant emits radio waves over a safe frequency. The patch collects the data and transmits them via Bluetooth to a mobile phone, which then sends them to the doctor over the cellular network. The implant could be particularly useful in chemotherapy applications.”
The only potential worries that this causes are related to security of the results transmitted via cellular networks, and the potential for someone to exploit them.
But, the potential application of these chips is undoubtedly great. Additional to chronic patients and people undergoing chemotherapy, the doctors can use the chip to trace for specific protein markers, thus testing patient’s tolerance to different drugs and doses. The chips can also be configures to send message alerts in certain situations, thus predicting certain symptoms, and enabling doctors to treat an illness even before it has any detectable symptoms. This will greatly improve the quality of health-care, and relieve some of the costs involved in lab-work associated with blood-tests.

The team hopes to have the chip commercially available within the next 4 years.
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