TAIPEI--Taiwan is perhaps best known for its expertise in consumer electronics, but by pioneering solutions to pressing problems in medicine, the island country hopes to take the lead in medical electronics too. At its National Taiwan Hospital located on the campus of National Taiwan University (NTU), Taiwan's national aspirations to become a medical electronics leader are taking shape.
Clinical trials at NTH--a teaching hospital for the Taipei Imperial University Medical School--have become the proving ground for NTU's medical electronics. Many medial diagnostics advances have been proven out at NTH already, but perhaps its most synergistic accomplishment to date is a wireless sensor pod, including an electrocardiograph (EKG) sensor, that will spearhead a nation-wide wireless medical monitoring facility that is currently in clinical testing at NTH.
Designed by principle investigator Shey-Shi Lu, the inconspicuous sensor pod is monitored by medical staff 24/7, and can also be accessed from any smartphone, allowing both doctors and concerned family members to monitor the heart-health, activity level and pharmaceutical conformance of elderly loved ones who often "forget" to take their pharmaceutical- and exercise-regimes seriously.
NTU's pain-relieving medical implant is a system-on-chip (SoC) that accepts radio frequency (RF) input from outside the body, which powers a micro-controller that uses digital signal processing to immediately stop pain without drugs or their side effects.
At the beginning of the innovation cycle is Lu's latest prototype--an experimental wireless medical implant that cures chronic pain with a system-on-chip (SoC) that injects electrical signals into the affected nerves on-demand. Once implanted at the base of the spine, the patient stops pain with a handheld activator--about the size of a smartphone--that sends radio frequency (RF) to an antenna on the implant. The RF energy wakes-up a micro-controller which injects the appropriate anti-pain signal directly into the nerve, stopping the pain instantly without the need for drugs.
"Today this type of therapy requires a surgical procedure that exposes the nerve so that doctors can inject the pain relieving signal into it," said Lu. "Unfortunately, relief only lasts a few months at most, after which the procedure has to be repeated. With our pain-relieving SoC a patient can administer the same therapy themselves whenever they have pain."
The pain-relieving SoC, which can be left in the patient indefinitely (since it has no battery) is currently being passivated to keep the body from rejecting it. After receiving medical approval from Taiwan's equivalent of the FDA, it will enter clinical testing at NTH and eventually be licensed to a Taiwan medical electronics company for marketing worldwide.