Team uses nanotechnology to create brain monitoring device

Researchers in Switzerland are using nanotechnology to develop a device to monitor and transmit biological signals for the treatment of brain diseases.

A team from Guardian Angels For Smarter Life (GA) based at Swiss technology institute EPFL has partnered with US charity One Mind for Research to create demonstration technology for studying brain diseases using nanoelectronic systems that harvest their own power.

The scientists believe that such a device, which would use GA’s new Zero Power Biosensor, could be used to monitor a patient’s health status or to study ambient conditions for environmental danger, and could eventually help to perceive a patient’s emotional conditions.

‘Our platform will create the ultimate smart device that will assist us from infancy to old age,’ said EPFL co-project leader Prof Adrian Ionescu in a statement.

‘One of the key features is its zero power requirement as it will scavenge for energy. Think of it as recharging using the environment, sun or movement — a technology that will benefit from bio-inspired concepts.’

Energy-harvesting technology is increasingly being used to power small medical devices from body movements, ending the need for batteries in implants such as pacemakers.

The new autonomous, self-powered, plaster-sized sensors will be able to record biological and environmental signals from a patient in a non-invasive way and transmit them automatically.

By embedding an array of sensors in small, lightweight, wearable devices, they will collect large amounts of data that could help drive advances in brain disease treatment based on very personalised diagnoses.

Magali Haas, chief science and technology officer for One Mind, said: ‘The promise of individualised medicine for devastating brain diseases will be hastened through this unique interdisciplinary partnership.’

GA plans to use the demonstrator platform to bid for a €1bn (£800m) grant from the EU Future and Emerging Technologies programme.