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Biotech Medicine Hardware

Researchers Build Water Soluble Chips 52

angry tapir writes "Researchers in the U.S. have developed integrated circuits that can stick to the skin like a child's tattoo and in some cases dissolve in water when they're no longer needed. The 'bio chips' can be worn comfortably on the body to help diagnose and treat illnesses. The circuits are so thin that when they're peeled away from the body they hang like a sliver of dead skin, with a tangle of fine wires visible under a microscope. Similar circuits could one day be wrapped around the heart like 'an electronic pericardium' to correct irregularities such as arrhythmia."
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Researchers Build Water Soluble Chips

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  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @06:18AM (#42248940)

    "Similar circuits could one day be wrapped around the heart..."

    As long as they make it look like bacon...

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @06:29AM (#42248970) Homepage

    To show the technology, Rogers rolled up his sleeve during his talk and, using a microscope and an overhead projector, revealed a circuit stuck on his arm. It looked like a clear tattoo, with a spaghetti-like mass of wires embedded in the surface.

    Right, nice, but is it a circuit that actually does something?

  • Like stabbing somebody with an icicle.

    The tin foil hatters will have a field day with this.

  • by Herve5 ( 879674 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @08:25AM (#42249450)

    "Similar circuits could one day be wrapped around the heart like 'an electronic pericardium' to correct irregularities such as arrhythmia."

    Ok, once in place, I agree this is less intrusive than nowaday's pacemakers. And potentially more precise than their single electrode pair.

    But if in order to get there you have to actually reach the heart to wrap them around, this, is catastrophically intrusive. This alone would be a no-go compared to the current pacemaker installation (through veins, basically a benign operation)

    Like in many articles today, the idea and design are great, but authors feel compelled to add in the end a dreamy and ridiculous future application that basically spoils the paper.
    I still think the affair is good. But now I also think the author is not really serious.

    • by SuricouRaven ( 1897204 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @10:16AM (#42250086)

      I'm not a cardiologist, but I do wonder if there might be any significent number of hearts too badly damaged for a conventional pacemaker, but for which this implant-wrap could do the job. Intrusive it may be, but if the alternative is a heart transplant, the wrap wins.

    • by unkiereamus ( 1061340 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @11:01AM (#42250493)
      This is speculation, but I'm betting this has less of an application for pacemaking than it does for correcting a conduction induced arrhythmia.

      Under normal circumstances, an electrical impulse is generated in the SA node at the top of the heart, then spreads through a defined path, first inervating the atria, a quick stop in the AV node which slows the conduction down for half a beat (haha, I'm so funny.), then continues down to activate the ventricles.

      Heart attacks kill muscle, and one of the big effects of that, aside from the loss of contractile force, is the fact that dead muscle doesn't conduct very well, so the electical impulse will start doing all sorts of interesting things to route around the problem, which can lead to the ventricles and atria firing in odd sequences.

      This circuit could potentially provide a new route for the impulse which would more closely mimic the original path, and restore a normal(ish) rhythm.

      Extending further out into speculation land, it's possible that with very precise control, and a reasonably powerful computer running the thing, you could correct atrial fibrillation, which would be all sorts of good.

      Finally, as to the implantation, I know that people are starting to do endoscopic Coronary Artery Bypass Grafts, which means that it's possible to work inside the pericardial sac without cracking the chest, I see no real reason that applying this circuitry couldn't be performed in the same way. Yes it's still going to knock people down for longer than a pacemaker implant will, but then, it's doing way more than a pacemaker does.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I wonder when it becomes feasible to have surveillance (mic and or camera) so small it can be sprinkled, and when you don't need it anymore it simply dissolves.

  • While in fact espionage is what pays for it :).

    We can only hope health care improvements will be at least a side-effect.

    • That occurred to me as well.

      Perhaps people will get their governments under control, so that the People decide what gets researched... and the government must settle for the scraps.

      • by dragisha ( 788 )

        Two words - better education.

        If People are not educated, decisions are made by mainstream media propaganda.

        • I'm not sure it's prudent to wait on the primary beneficiary of a poor educational system to overhaul that system.

          A good education can be had by researching online, but the value of this is regularly naysaid by internet trolls. Counterintuitively, the public seem to put much stock in their opinion of it. The result is that "everyone knows" information cannot be trusted, simply because it can be found predominantly online.

  • As a veteran of boring science conferences, I love that to make his point "he produced and then ate a tiny RF oscillator 5 millimeters across."

  • Hey look more bad news. Cool. Like Dragisha said, for those of us who don't get oppressed by this, maybe we can hope for some societal advancement when all the internment camps are liberated.
  • In before "Mark of the Beast"
  • It seems to me that this is just a few more minor discoveries away from Amy's talking tattoo []. I mean, the medical applications may be important and all, but come on; I'm sure everyone here knows that practicality isn't really what drives innovation...

  • by stevegee58 ( 1179505 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @11:52AM (#42250959) Journal
    What? Oh, never mind.
  • It amazes me to see the amount of FUD /. readers are willing to indulge in the face of new technology. Yes, it sounds a lot like some terrible thing you learned to fear from reading sci-fi novels or something. Oooohohhhhhhh. Might as well quote the Bible while you're at it.

    It ain't oppression until it's oppression. As of this moment, it's a cool toy.

To write good code is a worthy challenge, and a source of civilized delight. -- stolen and paraphrased from William Safire