Neural Dust Will Revolutionize The Lives of Many and Here’s Why

Today doctors have a limited view of what goes on in our body.

They can talk to us, take scans, run tests, and examine genetics, which all play as powerful tools for diagnosing an illness, but currently, there is only so much you can do in terms of early diagnoses.

However, that could all change because the future of brain-computer interfaces are on the tips of our fingers.

You might think I’m joking, but check this out:

Neural Dust Sensor

This little thing on the finger above, is a Neural Dust sensor, about the size of a grain of sand.

One day, we will be able to have these tiny implants inside our bodies. They’ll float next organs, beside nerves, inside blood vessels, and inhabit our brains.

These tiny sensors will be able to collect data and give reports on how different parts of our bodies are doing.

If an individual is having liver failure, digestion problems, or even something as severe as a heart attack, the person is notified right away and able to receive early necessary treatment.

Since these sensors are monitoring parts of your body at all times, the devices will be able to recognize and pick out early symptoms related to possible diseases and illnesses such as cancer. Before our consciousness recognizes we are having a problem, Neural Dust will recognize it first and notify us earlier.

Take a look at this:

  • Around 70% of lung cancer patients will survive for at least a year if diagnosed at the earliest stage.
  • In England, more than 9 in 10 bowel cancer patients survive the disease for 5 years or more, if diagnosed at the earliest stage.
  • Almost all women diagnosed with breast cancer at the earliest stage survive their disease for at least 5 years.

Just a few statistics prove that for most diseases, early diagnosis almost always guarantees a chance of survival, or gives diseased patients more time.

Sometimes people receive a late diagnosis because:

  • individuals are unaware of possible signs and symptoms
  • individuals often put off doctor appointments because they are unaware of the severity of symptoms they may be facing.
  • sometimes, individuals put off doctor appointments because they are afraid they may have a certain disease or illness, and they’d rather not know. Then when they finally realize they need medical attention, it's too late to guarantee positive results.
  • Hospitals are slow, doctors are busy.
  • Diagnosis journeys are not always straightforward. Many doctors are uncertain of certain things, and they will always investigate more than one possibility before guaranteeing it's the worst result.

However, with the help of Neural Dust, we can eliminate the possibility of late diagnosis, and be able to diagnose things way earlier, which in return increases survival rate and lifespan.

UC Berkeley’s researchers from the SWARM Lab have created dust-sized ultrasonic neural sensors, roughly the size of 0.8mm x 3mm x 1mm.

Essentially the tiny sensors enable real-time electrophysiological recordings of nerves, muscles, organs, and cells within the peripheral nervous system.

Contrary to traditional implantable electrodes consisting of wires, the Neural Dust sensors are wireless and do not have batteries.

In fact, these particular sensors are ultrasound-based, which is great because ultrasounds are very beneficial in terms of delivering power and transmitting data within millimetre scale devices.

Neural Dust sensors are making huge breakthroughs and possibilities within the field of electroceuticals (bioelectronic-based therapies).

The wireless sensors capture and digest electromyogram signals from muscles and electroneurogram signals from our brains. The recorded data will determine when the sensors have to stimulate the immune system and ameliorate inflammation which would prevent the progression of diseases including epilepsy and other neurological disorders.

Below is a diagram of the sensor:

Neural Dust Sensor Architecture.

I won’t be going into how the particular parts of the sensor work but if you’d like to read more about it click here.

Neural Dust has been tested in rats and has proven to successfully work. Once the sensor is implanted, it is powered and the data is read out by the ultrasound.

Image From UC Berkeley

The development of Neural Dust is just the start of the advancements it’ll make in the future. Currently, Neural Dust is being developed to be implanted into the central nervous system and brain, so that people can control prosthetics with their thoughts. Since the sensors are able to attach to nerve fibres, they can read electrical impulses that pass between the neurons via electrodes. It is crucial that the sensors are able to measure the impulses to develop an electromechanical system able to respond to them and in return physically move a prosthetic. The end goal would be to have the sensor feed impulse stimulation to a receiver, which would move the mechanical portion of the prosthetic, essentially allowing an individual to control prosthetics with their thoughts.

Additionally, researchers plan to make the device even smaller and use biocompatible thin films which would be resistant to degradation, meaning the devices could stay preserved in our body for up to 10 years. This would be a breakthrough since today’s implantable electrodes start to degrade within 1 to 2 years, and they all connect to wires that pass through holes within the skull. With wireless sensors such as Neural Dust, hundreds of the sensors could be implanted, avoiding the risk of infection and unwanted movement of electrodes.

  • Neural Dust was developed by researchers at UC Berkeley
  • The sensors are as tiny as a grain of sand (0.8mm x 3mm x 1mm)
  • The sensors enable real-time electrophysiological recordings of nerves, muscles, organs, and cells within the peripheral nervous system
  • Unlike traditional electrodes, they don’t have batteries or require wires
  • Recorded data can be used to stimulate parts of the brains to stop the prompt of a disorder
  • These sensors have been tested in rats successfully
  • In the future, we will be able to implant these devices to get updates on the health of our body, and early diagnose serious issues
  • These sensors are being fit for the purposes of allowing individuals to control prosthetics merely through thoughts
  • The development of these sensors will allow us to have long term devices in our body without the risk of infection or unwanted movement.

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Hi, I’m Ashley, a 16-year-old coding nerd and A.I. enthusiast!

I hope you enjoyed reading my article, and if you did, feel free to check out some of my other pieces on Medium :)

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💫 A Crash Course On Brain-Computer Interfaces

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💫NeuroPace- The Device That Stops Seizures Before They Happen

💫 Detecting Pneumonia Using CNNs In TensorFlow

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