Wireless Networking Solutions for
Smart Sensor Biomedical Applications
Implanted biomedical devices have the potential to revolutionize medicine. The types of procedures that are being propose could greatly improve the health and vitality of persons in ways previously not possible. Information technology is a critical component of this endeavor, requiring both novel hardware and software design. The limited power and computational capabilities of these biological implants present challenging research issues. As progress is made on these topics, there is great promise of long-term benefits. Multidisciplinary research, drawing on the expertise of researchers in a wide array of areas is required. This proposal assembles a multi-institutional team of researchers in computer science and engineering, solid state devices, and medicine. The combined talents of this team will be required to realize the goal of this proposal - small biomedical devices composed of smart sensors that are implanted for long-term use. These devices require the ability to communicate with an external diagnostic computer system via a wireless interface.
A large-scale research program on smart sensors is on-going at Wayne State University, covering all aspects from materials characterization through integrated circuit design and simulation to hybrid device fabrication. This major research initiative requires a multidisciplinary team involving faculty, researchers, and students from the Colleges of Engineering, Science, and Medicine. All are members of the Smart Sensors and Integrated Microsystems (SSIM) research group. The research in this proposal adds a new dimension to the currently funded research of the SSIM program by providing wireless communication capabilities to the implanted microsensors. This additional capability is possible because of the close collaboration among researchers at Wayne State University and Colorado State University. The proposed work will take an integrated hardware and software approach to developing solutions for wireless networking of human-embedded microsensors. These solutions will be bio-compatible, energy-efficient, fault-tolerant, and scalable. In addition, they would support continuous operation and provide diagnostic capabilities. The proposed work will address several fundamental questions for the wireless networking of embedded microsensors, including those arising due to the need for low-powered, low-maintenance, highly-reliable, and scalable solutions. As a demonstration of our proposed techniques, an artificial retina prosthesis and related visual cortical implant will be developed. The goal is to design wireless network protocols for energy-efficient communication between multiple retinal sensor array/cortical implants and an external base station. The research in this proposal provides the building blocks for this wireless network.
The severe limits on the computational and memory capabilities of the smart sensor implants place tight constraints on the communication protocol. For this reason, an external communication device, contained in a pair of eyeglasses, for example, will provide the additional resources necessary for protocol-compliant communication, and increased range and bandwidth. Software to display the message contents will be developed in order to validate the network protocols and the sensor communication. The software to perform image analysis and recognition will be also be developed by our research team. The developed solution will be evaluated, through both simulation and prototyping, for various performance and functionality criteria including bio-compatibility, energy-efficiency, reliability, and scalability Upon completion, the proposed work will have several benefits in the area of wireless networking of low-powered micro sensors, which are suitable for biomedical applications. Other biomedical applications where this technology are useful is limited only by our imagination. For example, patients with Parkinson's disease and epilepsy could benefit from the ability to implant sensors in the neural pathways of the brain to alter the undesired signals and restore proper functioning. Existing technology is very crude and not suitable for chronic implanted devices or complex signal stimulation and detection. Another example is acoustic and optical biosensor arrays for blood analysis currently under development at Wayne State University. Similar sensors are being developed to detect cancer cells by implanting a smart sensor in the body of a recovering cancer patient.
One of the main contributions of this project would be a framework for developing scalable wireless networking and powering solutions for biomedical applications. The integration of advances in wireless networking and smart sensor technology have great potential in several other applications such as the monitoring of distributed environmental sensors. It is envisioned that networked smart sensors will revolutionize our world in ways beyond our current imagination. Besides the technical benefits there will be several societal and educational benefits. Societal benefits include improved quality-of-life for many individuals and the accompanied benefits to society of their increased vitality and longevity. The educational component of this project will train information technology personnel in this very important interdisciplinary area. In particular, the PIs plan to develop a wireless networking of distributed and embedded sensors, to integrate the course in the existing curriculum at Wayne State and Colorado State, to develop tutorials centered around the theme of the proposal, and to work towards increasing the involvement of minorities and women in interdisciplinary research.