Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Body 2.0 - Continuous Monitoring Of The Human Body

Written on March 20, 2009 – 2:01 pm by keith kleiner

Did you ever stop to think how silly and also how dangerous it is to live our lives with absolutely no monitoring of our body’s medical status? Years from now people will look back and find it unbelievable that heart attacks, strokes, hormone imbalances, sugar levels, and hundreds of other bodily vital signs and malfunctions were not being continuously anticipated and monitored by medical implants. We can call this concept body 2.0, or the networked body, and we need it now!

The trio of biomedicine, technology, and wireless communication are in the midst of a merger that will easily bring continuous, 24×7 monitoring of several crucial bodily functions in the years ahead. Unfortunately, as is often the case with medical products, the needed innovations are either already developed or will be soon, but some of the best commercial products won’t make it to the market until years of testing have proven their safety.

In the future your doctor might call you before you have a heart attack, responding to an alarm sent out by monitoring systems in your body that have detected the precursors to a heart attack hours or days ahead of time. With body 2.0, medicine dosages could be tailored precisely to your body chemistry and metabolism. Real-time monitoring of chemical concentrations in your blood could allow for increasing or decreasing dosages accordingly.

The huge amounts of data that would be accumulated from hundreds of thousands of continuously monitored people would be nothing short of a revolution for medical research and analysis. This data could be harvested to understand the minute by minute changes in body chemistry that occur in response to medication, stress, infection, and so on. As an example, the daily fluctuations in hormone levels of hundreds of thousands of individuals could be tracked and charted 24/7 to determine a baseline from which abnormalities and patterns could be extracted. The possibilities are enormous.

Given the advantages, we must wonder why body monitoring is not already more successful and widespread. The answer is that most of the interesting body monitoring we desire requires direct access to the blood stream and other bodily fluids, and this is not an easy problem to overcome.

A straightforward technique is to prick the skin periodically to extract and analyze blood, yet this only works for periodic monitoring. It does not provide continuous access to bodily fluids. Sensors implanted permanently into the blood stream are what is needed, but the difficulty is that moisture, enzymes, and the immune system quickly wreak havoc on mechanical devices and destroy them. Implants also pose several opportunities for life threatening infection to take hold, and this must be addressed.



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