A blood testing laboratory that is so small it can be implanted under the skin has been invented by Swiss scientists.
The device, which is just 1.4cm (0.5in) long, can check up to five different substances in the blood around the clock – and transmit the results to a doctor’s computer.
The inventors say the tiny “lab-on-a-chip” could be used to give an early warning of a heart attack, or monitor cancer patients having chemotherapy.
Giovanni de Micheli of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne said the chip can be “programmed” by coating it with chemicals which react with substances that doctors want to monitor.
“It comes in contact with fluids in the body,” he said.
“The sensors react to the presence of particular compounds in the fluids and send the data outside.”
A patch on the surface of the skin powers the chip and transmits the information via Bluetooth to a smartphone or a tablet, which then relays it on to the doctor.
Sandro Carrara, another of the inventors, said the chip had huge potential.
“This device can predict a heart attack in advance by several hours thanks to the metabolites released by the heart when it is suffering,” he said.
The prototype is being unveiled at DATE 13, (Design Automation & Test in Europe) Europe’s largest electronics conference. The scientists hope the device will be commercially available within four years.