Researchers at MIT Make Advancements with Sensor Implants


Healthcare is continuing their push of using technology in detecting and treating a variety of diseases.  One disease that is getting attention is cancer and how technology is being utilized in treating and treating this disease.  The latest tech news regarding healthcare comes out of MIT, as researchers are making advancements with sensor implants that could assist with detecting and treating cancer.


Researchers Working Towards a New Paradigm in Treating Cancer

According to writer Mike Miliard from Healthcare IT News, Researchers at MIT are hard at work on a new technology known as ReMix at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).  The technology is attempting to create a new paradigm regarding treatment which instead of relying on surgery and endoscopy, it would rely on sensors as well as what is being referred to by scientists as an in-body GPS to assist in first making a diagnosis and then guiding administration of the drug(s).

The researchers are focusing on this type of approach towards patient care with the goal of being less time consuming, expensive and invasive than would previously had been available.  Those who follow MIT knows that it has always sought to be a pioneer in medical advances that pushed the envelope. 

Their focus recently has been on artificial intelligence and machine learning.  One example of this has researchers at CSAIL recently exploring ways AI can be used to assist with predictive models, improve electronic records and streamlining ICU data.

Utilizing Complex Algorithms and Other Technologies to Make ReMix Function

ReMix is not a simple piece of technology considering there are other factors needed to make it work.  Currently, the technology is being developed with assistance from clinicians at Massachusetts General Hospital and though it relies on algorithms that are complex to function, it also needs to leverage other technologies; ingestible implants needs their location spotted by low-power wireless signals.

CSAIL researchers used animals for the ReMix to be tested on and the results showed the technology can locate the implants accurately to within a centimeter or so.  The use of signals to track subtle movements as well as vital signs from a distance was pioneered by MIT professor Dina Katabi. 


The researchers in the initial testing of the ReMix decided to implant in an animal a small sensor while utilizing a wireless device which reflects radio signals that allows for tracking.  Then, a specific algorithm was deployed that could pinpoint where the marker was located, as it doesn’t need to on its own transmit a signal, just reflect the one the wireless device aimed at it.

The MIT scientists said the challenge has to do with the wireless signals bouncing off parts within the human body, which are more significantly powerful when reflecting off the skin rather than on any markers that are implanted.  The solution was to create a tiny semiconductor that assists in differentiate various signals by combining them while allowing filtering of irrelevant frequencies.

What Lies Ahead for ReMix

While the researchers remain hopeful that the technology will eventually be successful, they admit there is plenty of areas that ReMix needs to be fine-tuned and honed for it to be utilized in a clinical setting, such as the accuracy location would need to be reduced from centimeters to millimeters.  However, the CSAIL researchers stated their interested to see how the GPS could assist in locating a tumor or the possibility of guiding the application of proton therapy precisely when dealing with a wide array of cancers than what is possible today.


The next stage for the researchers is a combination of wireless signals and other information such as an MRI scan, assisting in improving the accuracy of the system and further research in assessing how the algorithm can adjust to the diverse complexities among the physiologies found in different patients.

Deepak Vasisht, who is a PhD student at CSAIL and a lead author of a new paper on MIT’s ReMix research, said that we want a model that’s technically feasible, while still complex enough to accurately represent the human body.  If we want to use this technology on actual cancer patients one day, it will have to come from better modeling a person’s physical structure.