• May 24, 2024, 3:56 am

This bee ‘backpack’ could become a medical sensor for humans SoftAIT

Reporter Name 34 Time View
Update : Sunday, November 5, 2023


Testing the viability of an injectable medical sensor by first strapping it to a bee’s back like a tiny bee backpack may not initially make the most sense. But are you really going to question researchers’ motives for something that looks so cute?

As detailed in a paper published earlier this week in Science, a team at Philips Research in Hamburg, Germany recently designed a 1-millimeter-wide sensor employing two opposing magneto-mechanical resonators (MMRs) within a cylindrical casing. They then attached the sensor to a honeybee just above its wings, and released the insect into a small enclosure featuring a variety of flowers to hop between.

Researchers wirelessly checked the sensor’s conditions by remotely stimulating the MMRs with pulses of current from electromagnetic coils. How much the magnets oscillated, the distance between them, as well as how much they contracted and expanded subsequently helped the team measure its location, pressure, and temperature. MMRs are generally far more sensitive than other, similar radiofrequency trackers, and are thus also capable of three-dimensional spatial tracking. As such, researchers could track the bee’s flight patterns, as well as its positioning as it walked upside down across the case’s ceiling.

[Related: Neuralink human brain-computer implant trials finally get FDA approval.]

The sensor didn’t only stay strapped to its bee test subject—researchers also experimented with using their device to three-dimensionally chart its path through a lengthy, twisting tube simulating a gastrointestinal tract. And if that weren’t enough, the sensor also helped navigate a biopsy needle in a simulated environment, as well as recorded the paths of a writing marker tracing continents’ outlines on a globe.

Although the team estimates their device is still between 5 and 8 years away from becoming available to the public, they believe that the sensor could prove extremely useful in a variety of medical settings. For example, such a sensor could one day be implanted directly in a patient’s heart to measure arterial blood pressure, or within tumors to observe their progress or eradication. A safe, ingestible pill to assess GI tract health is also easily foreseeable for such a small sensor.

That’s all well and good, but would all be worth it alone to see more bees buzzing around gardens with miniature fanny packs.


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