MIT’s Implantable Nanotech Sensor Monitors for Cancer and Now Heart Attacks

Nanotech implant to monitor heart

Aaron Saenz
Singularity Hub

Heart attacks and cancer account for nearly half of all deaths in the United States – they’re the two biggest killers walking the streets, but MIT isn’t afraid. Michael Cima and his team developed an implantable sensor that uses antibodies attached to nanoparticles to detect cancer related biomarkers. In 2009 Cima showed that he could implant these devices into human tumors in mice and then ‘read’ the cancer growth using MRI. No biopsies need. Over the past few years, Cima and his team have adapted their work to create a very similar device that measures biomarkers related to heart damage. This month they published work in Nature that demonstrated how their implant could detect heart attacks in mice. Watch Cima discuss some of the potential of this technology in the video below. While these implants aren’t ready for the clinic (Cima thinks 5 years for some applications) they are just too cool to ignore. Once fully realized, implants like these could be inserted into cells via a needle and read with a hand held scanner. Heart attacks, cancer…those bastards would never have the chance to sneak up on you again.

Biopsies, the standard method for testing clumps of cells for cancer, is an invasive procedure. Mild heart attacks can go unnoticed or ignored, but still leave behind serious damage that could later lead to death. What is needed in both cases is a method of safely and reliably monitoring the body, preferably from the inside where signals are stronger. That’s why the MIT implants are so ingenious. They can detect small changes in cells and relate that information to a medical professional without having to be removed. Developed by Cima and his team, graduate student Christophoros Vassiliou was able to get the devices small enough to fit inside a biopsy needle. You can inject them into the tissue you want to monitor. Once there, they not only can warn you of dangerous changes, they can help you directly control the treatment of patients so that their therapy matches their current needs. Cima describes this further in the following video:


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