Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Dissolvable devices that monitor your brain

Transhumanism, one step at a time.

Way back in January, I saw this story about implanted cybernetic devices. In the brain, no less. But here's an interesting deviation: they are not permanent. The idea is that you implant a chip in the brain capable of getting accurate readings on brain temperature and pressure but is also durable. This durability however must come from a biodegradable that will ultimately dissolve and leave the body in a harmless manner.

Why dissolve? Well it's because of one the very arguments against transhumanism I've seen crop up from time to time. "It's too invasive," I've heard. "These chip implants or cybernetics require major surgery." Indeed when one is dealing with critical areas of the body, case in point the brain, you don't want to be carving in there to implant a device and then perhaps later doing the same thing again to remove it. Also, current implants run the risk of infection.

Dissolvables solve this problem. The team at the University of Illinois that developed this application spent years developing these sensors out of silicon-based material with soluble wires connected to an external data transmission device. All dissolvable. Proof of concept tests have already been done on rats.

This could be a game-changer. A device of this nature could allow for critical examination or delivery of medicine to affected areas, all while being temporary and non-invasive. Or at least not as invasive as other methods. Here's to hoping that they get past tests on rats and move to humans soon. For as I often say when blogging about these news stories, it's not so much what the devices are doing now as the steps they represent. What's the next extension?

I'm sure there's at least a few out there who have conspiratorial views based on the headline of this post. Might someone plant something in your head towards nefarious ends, only to have all of the evidence melt away once the deed is done? What exactly that might be, I don't know. I'm just riffing off the concept. I suppose it's possible, but let's not get lost in the weeds. John Rogers, the head of the project developing these implants has the right idea:

“I’m interested in ways to engineer electronics to solve problems of human health, You can think about that like advanced wearables, but also devices that implant inside the body.”

Like I said, I'm really interested in where this goes next.

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