Singaporean NUS Researchers Develop Tiny Microsensor Implants For Round-The-Clock Health Monitoring
A team of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS)
has innovatively developed tiny subcutaneous implants t
hat can continuously measure a person’s blood glucose, heart rate and other physiological conditions. They developed a new wireless reader that is so sensitive to minute changes in a sensor’
s readings that it enables the creation of sub-millimetre microsensors, tiny enough to be injected under the skin.
The advanced wireless technology developed by Assistant Professor John Ho (left)
and doctoral student Dong Zhenya (right) can sense implantable microsensors. One
of the microsensors is shown on the finger of Mr Dong.Credit: NUS
Past efforts to make these microsensors
small have been largely hampered by technology limitations. These sensors
are too small to be powered by a battery, so they require a sensor reader to be placed near them to constantly detect signals such as chemical or pressure changes using magnetic fields. For a reader to make sense of the signals, the sensor
must be large enough to create a strong signal in the reader. So far, researchers have not been able to create viable microsensors
below 1 millimetre.
The researchers from NUS Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the NUS Faculty of Engineering and the NUS Institute for Health Innovation and Technology, led by Assistant Professor John Ho, developed a new way of measuring the signal, by calibrating the wireless reader to work at an exceptional point. This is a special state where the reader becomes extremely sensitive to nearby objects. The result is that the new reader is so sensitive ie three times more sensitive than existing readers, that it can even read the tiny signals emitted by the sub-millimetre microsensors.
The highly sensitive wireless technology developed by NUS researchers can monitor
health indicators such as blood pressure using microsensors that are tiny enough to
be injected under the skin. Credit: NUS
The researchers developed a working prototype of the reader that can read a microsensor
that is 0.9 millimetres in diameter while implanted underneath the skin using a syringe. In lab experiments, the reader was able to monitor the rate of breathing and heart rate
by detecting subtle movements of the battery-free microsensor.
Taking more than two years of research by the team, from February 2017 to January 2019, to develop
this innovative microsensor
. The team’s achievement was published in the scientific journal Nature Electronics.
Asst Prof Ho told Thailand Medical
News, “We hope that our breakthrough will be a trailblazer for the future of minimally invasive health monitoring
solutions where patients are immediately alerted whenever their physiological conditions such as heart rate and blood glucose cross a critical threshold. Now that we have proven the viability of our reader, the next step is to develop a suite of passive (battery-free) microsensors
that can monitor various physiological parameters such as glucose, bioelectrical activity and blood chemistry.”