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Implanted circuitry inspired by human engineering

25 March 2014

Electronics for implanting in humans needs is inspired by how the human body processes information, according to Dr Pantelis Georgiou of London’s Imperial College

Electronics for implanting in humans needs is inspired by how the human body processes information, according to Dr Pantelis Georgiou of London’s Imperial College.

Speaking at the London headquarters of the Institute of Physics on March 19th, he commented that silicon still has some way to go before it can come close to matching the ability of the human brain to undertake 3.6 x 1015 operations per second using about 12W of power.

Nonetheless, data processing sensor information at the point of origin is essential if information from human implanted devices is to made good use of.

Such a philosophy lies behind the successful development of human cochlear implants and the disposable Toumaz Sensium Digital Plaster, which wirelessly transmits information on patient heart rate, temperature and respiration rate.

The Metabolic Technology Laboratory, which Dr Georgiou heads, within the Centre of Bio Inspired Technology at Imperial is currently engaged in developing an artificial pancreas, which can continuously monitor blood sugar levels in order to regulate the delivery of insulin from a micro pump. This has currently reached the stage of clinical trials on 20 human subjects.

At the same time, the team is developing a Field Effect Transistor device that can undertake up to eight DNA matches on a single chip. This works, he revealed, by detecting hydrogen ions released by matches between probe and target DNA samples, potentially reducing testing time from two weeks in a laboratory to 15 to 20 minutes in a doctor’s office. Main target applications are in the early detection of diseases, particularly cancers. He said that the ultimate goal of the project is to be able to sequence whole human genomes for less than $1000 using 100 million sensing areas on a chip.

More information about the work of the Centre for Bio Inspired Technology may be found at http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/bioinspiredtechnology

After the lecture, there was a lively discussion about what might be achieved in the near future and how such goals might best be achieved.