MicroTransponder, a company out of Dallas, Texas, is developing an implantable neural stimulator to alleviate chronic pain. Looking like an RFID implant, the prototype device uses low energy radio technology for communication and has no batteries on board.
Here’s how MIT Technology Review reports about the device:
The implanted portion consists of small electrodes and a small coil, which is powered by an external battery-powered coil worn like a cuff on the arm or leg. The stimulation parameters are programmed via laptop or PDA and would be tailored to the individual patient…
“Instead of trying to transfer energy from two coupled antennas to do telemetry, which is a common approach for medical devices, RFID is geared to have very small transponders, so you don’t need a large coil,” says Joseph Pancrazio, a program director at the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a government funding agency, in Bethesda, MD, that has given the company small business loans.
The research is still in a very early stage. Researchers have developed a prototype device, which they are testing in rats. The device can effectively stimulate peripheral nerves in rats, although it’s not yet clear whether the electrical stimulation alleviates chronic pain.
From the company technology page:
The SAINT™ unit eliminates any implantable battery or wires. It is injectable with a 12-gauge needle in a 30 minute outpatient procedure. This implanted platform technology will be coupled to an external controller, which can be worn like an armband; and will provide the power and stimulus parameters for the device. The external controller will be able to interface with a laptop or PDA in order to change the stimulus parameters to better treat the patient’s pain profile.