Wireless technology already lets people enjoy activities like listening to music, but now, scientists have created barely-there wireless sensors applicable to dozens of medical conditions. These tiny, implantable sensors, so small that creators refer to them as "neural dust," work based on ultrasound rather than electromagnetic waves and have the capacity to provide real-time internal monitoring.

Teeny sensors, huge range of possibilities.

Researchers are still refining the new sensors, but they hope that, in time, once implanted, the neural dust could be used for purposes such as:

  • Control of robotic limbs or computers/prosthesis interaction

  • Bladder control
  • Appetite suppression
  • Oxygen monitoring
  • Hormone monitoring
  • Pressure monitoring
  • Muscle treatments
  • General biofeedback for fitness (like that offered by fitness trackers/monitors)

What's more, it offers advantages such as:

  • Less physical damage to the body
  • Lower activation of immunological defenses
  • Longer operational life (may last decades or even a lifetime)

Why businesses and general consumers need to care.

Modern workers are being exposed to new stressors and health-damaging processes and products all the time. Experts routinely assert that the contemporary work environment contributes to a variety of conditions, such as heart disease, sleep disturbance, hormonal disruption, joint/muscle damage, diabetes, and even cancer. Additionally, based on 2015 data, the average premium for single coverage under an employer-sponsored health insurance program was $6,251 a year, with family coverage costing $17,545. Businesses pay an average of 83 and 72 percent of those expenses, respectively.

If researchers can hone the neural dust technology, doctors theoretically could prevent and treat the diseases workers and their families combat much more effectively, potentially decreasing what companies have to spend to maintain a healthy, loyal, and productive staff.

Not quite there, but on the way.

Neural dust isn't ready to treat everything, and many more clinical trials are necessary to expand safety and effectiveness. Still, the technology puts workers and the general public on the cusp of addressing health in a way that's totally unprecedented. It's definitely an advancement worth watching and investing in, no matter how many people you have on your payroll.

The question is, would you want it?

Published on: Aug 24, 2016
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