Researchers have developed a ‘Neural Dust‘ microchip to monitor body levels and possibly control prosthetics trough the brain. The device works by using ultrasound technology as its power and developers are still bettering the product.
A team from the Engineering department of the University of California, Berkley, created a dust-sized microchip that locates inside the human body and monitors body levels through ultrasound waves. The Neural dust is a batteryless microchip that works with wireless sensors and stimulates muscles and nerves inside the human body. Researchers hope to control disorders and diseases, such as epilepsy in the future by stimulating the human brain.
Researchers performed preliminary experiments of the microchip on lab rats, to understand better the performance of the invention inside a body. The study was held by the Engineering Department of Berkley California and it’s principal author Professor Michel Maharbiz from the computer sciences and electrical engineering.
“Having access to in-body telemetry has never been possible because there has been no way to put something super tiny superdeep. But now I can take a speck of nothing and park it next to a nerve or organ,” said Maharbiz in a statement.
Organ monitoring could help control a number of disorders
The Neutral Dust is 3 millimeters long and 1×1 in cross-section, and it fulfills one of the team’s first objectives, working without batteries or wires for a long-lasting effect and monitoring performance.
The chip possesses a pair of sensors, which are about the same size of a grain of sand, and contain what scientists called a “piezoelectric crystal.” Scientists refer as “Backscatter” to the process of receiving and transforming the energy through the chip’s crystals,
This piece can turn the ultrasound vibrations outside of the body, into a source of energy for the chip to work on the nerve or organ in which is located.
Researchers used 540-nanosecond ultrasound pulses every 100 microseconds to power the microchip. The process translated into a real-time reading of the rat’s body and are now working on a device that would last inside the body without the fear of degradation for over a decade. One of the biggest milestones for the development team is to create a nanodevice that can control the nervous system and apply it to bioelectrical medicine, to treat and change the way the body works and answers to certain diseases or limitations.
Other uses of the nanochip include developing technology to control appetite suppression or bladder control, although that requires greater technology that not only controls the brain but the whole nervous system.
“The original goal of the neural dust project was to imagine the next generation of brain-machine interfaces ant to make it a viable clinical technology,” said Ryan Neely a neuroscience graduate who participated in the study.
Improving the Neural Dust for human applications
The first trials of the Neural Dust already finished on lab rats, and now scientists are hoping to improve their product by reducing its size and upgrading its constant time inside the human body.
One of the next milestones of the team is to put the nanochips to work inside of awake and moving animals to see if the device would be viable for active patients. Several changes are expected on the instrument, such as adding more sensors. For example, if a patient is practicing a certain therapy, the chip could provide answers of the body’s response to the treatment.
A risky investigation for researchers
The team had been working on the project for a long time, in fact, the first time they published something about the device was in 2013 when they assured their technique might work for this type of technology. Although Berkeley’s team managed to create the device successfully, this type of technology advances is hard to get to because of the long list of complications risks that exist.
One of the main concerns, when developing and planting a nanochip device in a body tissue, is to damage the location and complicate the body or cause damages that result in inflammation, which in the case of the brain could be mortal, there’s also a high risk of infection.
The study’s results were published in the journal Neuron on August third.
Source: University of California