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The National Science Foundation (NSF) is helping fund the creation of an implantable antenna for health care, which could be used for “long-term patient monitoring.”
The government has so far given $5,070 for a graduate fellowship to work on the project, which begins June 1.
The project is being financed in collaboration with the National Research Foundation of Korea to create a high frequency antenna that can be permanently implanted under a person’s skin.
“Antennas operating near or inside the human body are important for a number of applications, including healthcare,” a grant for the project said. “Implantable medical devices such as cardiac pacemakers and retinal implants are a growing feature of modern healthcare, and implantable antennas for these devices are necessary to monitor battery level and device health, to upload and download data used in patient monitoring, and more.”
The grant said that an implantable device could be used for “long-term patient monitoring” and “biometric tracking,” or using technology to verify a person’s identity.
“Despite their potential use in long-term patient monitoring and wireless biometric tracking there is limited research on [Ultra High Frequency] UHF [radio-frequency identification] RFID for insertion in high-loss human body environments,” the grant said. “This research will greatly benefit from procedures already in place at Dr. You Chung Chung’s antenna lab at Daegu University in Daegu, Korea.”
The project will test different types of ultra high frequency antenna designs that can be “inserted under the skin for a permanent application.”
“Ultra High Frequency (UHF) RFID tag antennas are printed using conductive ink and have found increased applications due to advantages such as minimal cost, low maintenance, good tag read range, and ability to operate without an integrated battery,” the grant said.
Funding is being distributed through the NSF’s East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes (EAPSI) for U.S. Graduate Students.
The NSF told the Free Beacon that the project is working on how to make a temporary tattoo-like device that can be implanted under the skin.
“This award is a fellowship supporting a U.S. graduate student to conduct research in Korea this summer with a known expert in his field, enhancing the fellows’s research and supporting his professional development,” said Jessica Arriens, a public affairs specialist for the NSF.
“This specific award supports the student to conduct fundamental bio-engineering research on in-body antennas, which are used to communicate with medical devices implanted inside the body (a pacemaker, for example),” she said. “Those devices use antennas to record everything from battery levels to patient health. This fellow is studying how to make more resilient antennas, sort of like temporary tattoos that can be implanted underneath the skin and better relay information from implanted medical devices.”
“The research could ultimately help improve a variety of health areas, since many areas use implanted medical devices: defibrillators, neural recording devices, cochlear and retinal implants,” Arriens said. “Long-term just refers to the fact that implanted medical devices are, often, not a short-term patient option (think of a pacemaker or ear implant, for example – patients live with those long-term).”
Arriens said the EAPSI program allows graduate students to “gain valuable research experience, plus experience working and collaborating in a foreign country, and they bring back all this knowledge to the U.S.”
The NSF funding will provide the student’s airfare and a stipend for eight weeks of research in Korea. The National Research Foundation of Korea will provide funding for the student’s living expenses and lab expenses.
“NSF’s investment in EAPSI is matched roughly dollar for dollar by the investment of our international counterparts,” she said.
Arriens said additional funding could be provided only if the NSF approves a separate project proposal submitted by the student.
Update, 4:05 P.M.: This post has been updated with comment from the NSF.