RISE ICT stories: Body-based sensor networks – a groundbreaking solution for health care
A network of sensors and actuators on and in your body, which continuously measure your health, diagnose your condition and administer medicine. How does that sound? Through the BioCom-Lab initiative, Linköping University and RISE Acreo are developing bio-electronic solutions for future medical and health care.
The concept behind the BioCom-Lab is to provide companies and other stakeholders within health care with the resources they need in terms of technology and expertise to allow them to take the next step in digital development.
Magnus Berggren, Professor of Organic Electronics at Linköping University, explains: “Organic electronics can be used to control the body’s chemical and biological processes, opening up possibilities for completely new medical and health treatments.”
The researchers are already making progress. Advances made thus far include a bio-sensor platform to measure parameters such as blood-sugar levels in diabetes patients. Instead of taking a blood sample on a test strip then placing the test strip into an instrument to read glucose levels, printed electronics can replace both the instrument and test strip, with a disposable test the size of a business card.
“We envisage a future where a sensor in a band aid can carry out continuous measurements of various parameters,” says Göran Gustafsson, department head at RISE Acreo.
The research teams have also developed prototypes for actuators – implantable “delivery electrodes” – which can be surgically implanted in the patient and, triggered by an electrical signal, administer an exact dose of medicine to exactly the right part of the body. The actuators have already shown good results in animal tests where the pain threshold was changed by electronically delivering neurotransmitters to the spine.
Acreo and Linköping University, in collaboration with Ericsson, have created prototypes showing how humans can function as conductors of information from a smart label (or a sensor plaster), with the information flowing through the body to a mobile device. The technology could be used to connect sensors and actuators in the body to a smartphone in a network.
“It should be possible to take processes which are today carried out in a hospital – taking tests, performing diagnoses and administering medicine – and conduct them locally using a body-based network of sensors and actuators,” Gustafsson says. “The technical solutions being developed within BioCom-Lab will contribute to society getting better value for money in health care and increasing patient independence.”
This story was published in our annual report 2015.