By John Pavlus
Imagine you're a patient being treated for Parkinson's Disease, which causes tremors. The disorder kills brain cells that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, so you take medication to increase dopamine production. Rather than swallowing a pill, which disperses the drug throughout your body and potentially causes unpleasant side effects, you have a computerized implant that infuses just the right amount of medication directly into your brain. Meanwhile, a flexible patch on your knee uses ultrasound to continuously measure the cadence of your gait, minimizing the possibility of a life-threatening fall.
These treatments don’t exist yet, but they’re part of a future that Canan Dagdeviren envisions and is already starting to build. Her Conformable Decoders group at the MIT Media Lab focuses on developing “mechanically adaptive” electronics: medical devices that can flex and fit with any surface of the body, inside or out.