Navy sonar technology is being miniaturized by University at Buffalo professor Tommaso Melodia to be applied inside the human body to treat diseases like diabetes and heart failure in real time.
A network of wireless body sensors that use ultrasounds could be used to wirelessly share information between medical devices implanted in or worn by diabetic/heart failure patients.
Previously, researchers focused on linking sensors together via electromagnetic radio frequency waves – the same type used in cellular phones, GPS and wireless devices. Radio waves can be effective, but they generate heat and require large amounts of energy to propagate through skin, muscle and tissue. Ultrasound may be a more efficient way to share information as 65 percent of the body is composed of water. This suggests that medical devices, such as a pacemaker and a blood oxygen level monitor, could communicate more effectively via ultrasounds compared to radio waves.
Melodia highlights the technology’s use in diabetes patients, where wireless blood glucose sensors could be connected to implantable insulin pumps. The sensors would monitor the blood and, via the pumps, control the dosage of insulin as needed in real time.