Geography Aids in Developing Wireless Microsensing Device

Originally Published MDDI November 2002R&D DIGEST

November 1, 2002

3 Min Read
Geography Aids in Developing Wireless Microsensing Device

Originally Published MDDI November 2002


Implanted in the body, this wireless microchip can transmit blood flow and pressure data to external monitoring devices.

Use of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) has proven to be a key innovation in the fabrication of advanced medical devices. CardioMEMS Inc., a two-year-old company in Atlanta, is now building upon techniques from the microelectronics industry to develop a number of medical technologies that "hold the promise of revolutionizing the diagnosis and treatment of diseases," according to David Stern, the company's president and CEO. The company is currently conducting animal studies of a wireless microchip device that can be implanted in the body and transmit information on blood flow and pressure to external monitors.

In some respects, geography has played an important role in the founding of CardioMEMS and its current research. Stern explains that the company was founded by Jay Yadav, MD, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, and Mark Allen, PhD, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta), whose primary focus is MEMS applications. Yadav had some clear ideas about the devices he wanted to develop, according to Stern. But he believed that conventional mechanical engineering methods would not lend themselves to the construction of the next-generation products he envisioned. Yadav thought, however, that MEMS technologies—micromachining, microfabrication, and such—could be leveraged to solve the engineering problems. Says Stern "His research into the MEMS field led him to Mark Allen, who is very well known in the MEMS area."

Stern explains, "The core technology, of course, was this whole area of microelectromechanical systems, and Georgia Tech is a major center for MEMS education and research." He points out that the state of Georgia operates a business incubator called the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) on the Georgia Tech campus. "The most important aspect is that through ATDC, we can gain access to Tech's facilities." This includes the MEMS cleanroom, Stern adds, enabling the firm to fabricate its prototypes.

Describing the company's current focus, Stern explains that, "Our technology is not limited to just one product. The idea of building medical devices using MEMS fabrication techniques provides a lot of opportunities for development. So there are various interesting technologically advanced products that we're working on."

Stern adds that the pressure sensor now in development also illustrates the importance of the firm's relationship with Georgia Tech. "The sensor program initally came from a research initiative that was performed by Georgia Tech for a military-type application," he says. "We were able to license that technology and the patents and extend the development into the medical field."

Stern says, "The other advantage our relationship with Georgia Tech gives us is that we can leverage what might have been five or six years of pure in-the-lab research into a product development program that can proceed at a rapid pace because the theoretical work has been done already." He adds, "The significant challenge has been the engineering the medical implant version of the sensor which has required substantial R&D."

To date, the company has succeeded in developing the sensor, the delivery mechanism, and the external electronics used to communicate wirelessly with the sensor. Human clinical trials are expected to begin in the near future.

Stern describes the device as "a passive device that is powered through the external electronics that communicate with it." He adds that the device uses no lead, no wire, and no battery or power supply. "It's simply the device itself inside the body. Everything else is done externally."

Although the company is exploring a number of potential medical applications for its sensor technology, current efforts are being focused on two. Initial research will be directed toward using the wireless sensor technology to monitor pressure within an aortic aneurysm. Use of the sensor to measure pressure within the heart will also be explored as an aid in treating congestive heart failure.

Copyright ©2002 Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry

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