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Medical technology meets Moore's Law equals in vivo diagnostics

We live in a high tech society, yes? Moore’s Law has seen computer power grow so fast that most of us carry more computing power around on our phone than was used to send people to the moon only a few decades ago.

So why is it that the basic measurements for health are still a thermometer under the tongue and blood pressure based on a cuff round your arm at a specific time?

There are so many areas that rapidly improving technology can help in healthcare from drug discovery to laboratory automation, however here I’m going to focus on diagnostics. There are already a few recently launched swallowable capsules that take images of a patients digestive tract as they pass through, reaching places its generally not possible to examine from the top or bottom (so to speak!) – these are known as capsule endoscopies and are typically quite a mouthful with dimensions of 1 to 2 centimetres. Give or take this is about the size of commercially available transistors in the 1950s compared to the 2014 fabrication technology of 14nm – that’s a million fold improvement in 60 years or a halving of size every 3 years (sorry Mr Moore, not your usual 18 months but this is back of an envelope maths so close enough).

So what happens when medical technology meets Moore’s Law? To allow sensors to monitor the bloodstream from within they’ll need to be about the size of a typical red blood cell, say 6 µm, so a two thousand fold improvement – easy, we should have that 33 years. Which means in the 2040s we could all have swarms of sensors monitoring every part of our bodies – checking blood pressure constantly at thousands of points in our circulatory system providing early warning of any constrictions that would indicate damage or plaque build up.

And many years before that you’ll be able to take a daily capsule – not another vitamin but a daily cheap diagnostic for any digestive tract problems. No doctors will need to be involved unless something unusual is detected – maybe results sent to your smartphone, but already that sounds a bit dated – more likely sent to your personal health centre which all homes will have that monitors your every move, breath and perspiration to check you’re in the best possible condition.

Chip sandwich anyone? Human on a chip and chip on a cell

Action Man bionic eyes coming to an opticians near you soon

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