hand with blue latex glove holding a small white syringe

World’s Smallest Implantable Chip Can Monitor Medical Conditions

If you could have something that automatically tracked your health parameters and monitored health conditions in real-time, would you get it? Well, this technology is not as far off as you think. Researchers from Columbia University have invented the world’s smallest implantable chip that can do just that. (1)

The World’s Smallest Implantable Chip To Track Medical Conditions

The world’s smallest implantable chip is so small that it fits onto the tip of a needle. While this chip may be tiny, its goals are big: to track the carrier’s medical conditions in real-time. (1) The current devices, designed by Columbia Ph.D. student Chen Shi and manufactured by the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, can only track body temperature. Its potential, however, is much greater. The researchers say that the chip will be able to (2):

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  • Support and enhance physiological functions
  • Treat diseases
  • Monitor temperature, blood pressure, glucose, and respiration

At no more than 0.1mm3, the chip is roughly the size of a teeny, tiny dust mite. (1)

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“We wanted to see how far we could push the limits on how small a functioning chip we could make,” said the study’s leader Ken Shepard, Lau Family professor of electrical engineering and professor of biomedical engineering. “This is a new idea of ‘chip as system’—this is a chip that alone, with nothing else, is a complete functioning electronic system. This should be revolutionary for developing wireless, miniaturized implantable medical devices that can sense different things, be used in clinical applications, and eventually approved for human use.” (1)

Read: Your Favorite Banana Could Go Extinct Thanks To A Deadly Fungus

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Various images showing the relative size comparison of the chip. The top right image shows the chip on the face of a dime. The extremely small chip can fit on the tip of a needle. Image Credit: Victoria Andino-Pavlovsky, Columbia University | Science Advances

How It Works

The tiny chip is only visible under a microscope. The team powers and communicates with the chip remotely using ultrasound. They went with ultrasound to power the chip because traditional RF communications, which use electromagnetic waves, are too large for the little device. Ultrasound wavelengths are much smaller. (1)

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“Ultrasound is continuing to grow in clinical importance as new tools and techniques become available. This work continues this trend.” said team member Elisa Konofagou. (1)

While the world’s smallest implantable chip might not be quite ready to be injected into patients yet, it is on its way. Welcome to the future of medical technology. The study demonstrating its applicability was published online on May 7 in Science Advances.

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Sources

  1. Tiny, Wireless, Injectable Chips Use Ultrasound to Monitor Body Processes.” Engineering. Holly Evarts. May 12, 2021.
  2. World’s tiniest implantable chip fits on the tip of a needle, it can monitor medical conditions.” Times Now News. May 16, 2021.
Julie Hambleton
Freelance Writer
Julie Hambleton has a BSc in Food and Nutrition from the Western University, Canada, is a former certified personal trainer and a competitive runner. Julie loves food, culture, and health, and enjoys sharing her knowledge to help others make positive changes and live healthier lives.
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