Health Gadgets of the Future

FRESNO, Calif.

Two and a half trillion dollars and counting. More than 8,000 dollars per person is what Americans spend on healthcare.

"Le's make it cheaper," Charlie Sodini LeBel Professor and Co-Director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Medical Electronic Device Realization Center told Ivanhoe.

Professors and students at MIT's MEDRC want to do just that.

"Getting technologies out of the lab and into the marketplace," Brian W. Anthony Co-Director of MEDRC said.

"In this experiment we are separating white blood cells from whole blood cells," Haowei Su, an MIT graduate student explained.

A recent study found Americans are throwing away 33 million dollars on unnecessary complete blood cell counts during routine check-ups.

The MEDRC is working to lower the cost of common blood testing and reduce the wait for results. Using micro fluidics, researchers are routing blood cells through a chip with electricity.

"Make some go left, some go right, and some go straight," Joel Voldman, an Associate Professor and co-director of MEDRC, said.

The idea is to create a device that uses a drop of blood instead of a whole vial for various blood tests. It could cut out costly lab work and get patients' results in minutes.

"Do them in the doctor's office, do them at the home so you can get answers much faster, you can get answers much more often," Voldman said.

These researchers are developing a wearable vitals monitor.

"The goal is to have this worn, basically throughout the day," Eric Winokur, an MIT Ph.D. candidate told Ivanhoe.

It measures heart rate and blood pressure at your head, and could help doctors track conditions like high blood pressure more accurately and continuously to better personalize treatment.

Winokur listed some typical questions that patients will be able to get answers to using thedevice, "Is my medication working? Should I increase it? Should I decrease it? What's my overall health?".

There is also the smart ultrasound. No matter how much you push on the prototype you get consistent images. With a normal ultrasound you get a lot more movement. Researchers hope it will lead to more accurate and more frequent imaging of things like tumors. They want images comparable to x-rays, without the higher cost or risk of radiation.

"Then you have the additional information of more images over time and you've not experienced a radiation dose with each imaging scenario," Anthony said.

Futuristic devices that could keep you and your wallet healthy.

The MEDRC works closely with physicians to understand patient needs. Co-founder Brian Anthony tells us the devices they're creating could be in your doctor's office, or even your home, in the next few years.


BACKGROUND: The vision of the MEDRC is to transform the medical electronic device industries: to revolutionize medical diagnostics and treatments, bringing healthcare directly to the individual; and to create enabling technology for the future information-driven healthcare system. Specific areas that show promise are wearable or minimally invasive monitoring devices, medical imaging, laboratory instrumentation, and the data communication from these devices and instruments to help healthcare providers and caregivers. The MEDRC establishes a partnership between the microelectronics industry, the medical devices industry, medical professionals and MIT to collaboratively achieve improvements in the cost and performance of medical electronic devices similar to those that have occurred in personal computers, communication devices and consumer electronics. (

HOW IT WORKS: MEDRC is using tools to achieve their goal through: Technology scaling research, Digital Design and Tool Research, Analog and mixed-signal design research, product-system and system design.

APPLICATION: MEDRC collaboration will also include GE Global Research, the cornerstone for GE Technology for over 100 years. GE researchers are building more intelligence into ultrasound probes in effort to achieve higher quality images and aid in the diagnosis of disease. The project will also enable a wider range of health care providers to perform scans and ultimately, hopes to make ultrasound more accessible in regions where healthcare services are limited. (

MEDRC hopes the application areas will include: wearable devices, minimally invasive monitors, point-of-care instruments, imaging and data communication.

The MEDRC was founded and will be lead by Charlie Sodini, LeBel Professor of Electrical Engineering, Microsystems Technology Laboratories; Brian W.Anthony, Director of the Master in Engineering In Manufacturing Program, Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity; and Joel Voldman, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Research Laboratory of Electronics and Microsystems Technology Laboratories


Coleen Kinsella
Administrative Assistant II
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(617) 253-6857

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