By Luc Puis
They say technological progress is unstoppable, and with the latest inventions we present to you today, we just can’t argue with that. And the good news is: all of them are there to make our lives better, easier, or just plain survivable.
The first one we want to describe is not a single device but an overview of recent years’ development of breathable electronic skins – or so-called e-skins, that are used for daily physiological signal monitoring.
What exactly are e-skins? They are skin-attachable devices that detect one or more signals from the body and communicate those to a bigger device for storage and analysis. They are considered breathable because they can be used for long-term wear and avoid the accumulation of sweat. They are also called intelligent, integrated, and multifunctional.
Two types of sensors are defined: one type detects electrophysiological signals like electrocardiography (ECG), electro-oculography (EOG; yeah, we had to look that one up as well), electromyography (EMG), and electroencephalography (EEG). The other type detects physical physiological signals (pulses, breath sounds, blood pressure, body temperature, etc.) and chemical physiological signals (glucose, ethanol, electrolytes, etc.).
The nanoscale of it all makes it very fascinating. The authors present an extensive overview of the recent developments with materials used, the exact thickness and composition of all the layers, and how they can sense signals. Yes, some people do this for a living…
Next in truly remarkable stuff: the transient pacemaker. It’s basically a resorbable pacemaker implanted in the heart after cardiac surgery or while awaiting permanent pacemaker implantation. It communicates wirelessly with four sensors outside the body, monitoring body temperature, oxygen levels, respiration, muscle tone, physical activity, and the heart’s electrical activity (e-skins, anybody?).
After it has done its job, it would dissolve in the body, leaving anti-inflammatory drugs behind to prevent foreign body reactions. It would also be possible to monitor it from a distance on a tablet or other hand-held device, to monitor any changes in the condition of the patient. That’s two times “would” is stated, because it is not yet ready for clinical use at this moment. But if it ever would be possible to implant it in humans, it would mean no more wires and leads that potentially rupture the myocardial wall, a complication that ended Neil Armstrong’s life, the first man to walk on the moon. Very promising!
Special Delivery: AED Drone
Lastly, the use of new technology that has saved someone’s life, in December 2021.
“I saw something flying above my head. It was a drone with a defibrillator!”
That’s what a Swedish doctor said while he was resuscitating a man that he noticed collapsed in his front yard while driving by. The doctor immediately alarmed the emergency services, and within 60 seconds, a drone took off from a nearby location carrying an automated external defibrillator (AED). Within a few minutes, they were able to save the man’s life.
While the AED drone delivery system now only reaches about a 200,000 person area, this success story will probably enable the service to expand across other regions in Sweden.
In the US, 350,000 people suffer from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) annually, and about 70% of those occur in private homes without AEDs. Setting up such a drone delivery system could potentially save many lives in the US as well, as it is faster than an ambulance service.
Truly remarkable and lifesaving!
Yang Y et al. Breathable Electronic Skins for Daily Physiological Signal Monitoring. Nano-Micro Lett. 14, 161 (2022). https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40820-022-00911-8
Marcus MB. (2022) The World’s First Transient Pacemaker Is One Step Closer to Clinical Use – Medscape https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/980125?
Choi YS et al. G (2022) A transient, closed-loop network of wireless, body-integrated devices for autonomous electrotherapy Science 2022; 376(6596): 1006-1012 https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abm1703
Stone N. (2022) Autonomous Drone-Delivered Defibrillator Helps Save Cardiac Arrest Patient Within Minutes – Nice News https://nicenews.com/innovation/drone-delivers-defibrillator-saves-life/