Stanford University assistant professor of electrical engineering Ada Poon has demonstrated a tiny, wirelessly powered, self-propelled medical device capable of controlled motion through a fluid — blood, to be exact. The era of swallow-the-surgeon medical care may no longer be the stuff of science fiction. Poon’s medical devices can be implanted or injected into the human body and powered wirelessly using electromagnetic radio waves.

altSome of these new devices, like heart probes, chemical and pressure sensors, cochlear implants, pacemakers, and drug pumps, would be stationary within the body. Others, like Poon's most recent creations, could travel through the bloodstream to deliver drugs, perform analyses, and perhaps even zap blood clots or remove plaque from sclerotic arteries.

The idea of implantable medical devices is not new, but most of today's implements are challenged by the size of their batteries, which are large and heavy and must be replaced periodically. Poon's devices consist of a radio transmitter outside the body sending signals inside the body to an independent device that picks up the signal with an antenna of coiled wire. The power is transferred wirelessly. It can be used to run electronics on the device and propel it through the bloodstream.

To learn more and watch a video about the devices, visit http://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/february/micro-device-implant-022212.html

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