In addition to tracking your health stats, like how many calories you burn, how many steps you walk, researches have now developed a tiny sensor, invisible to the naked eye, that would have to be implanted just under the skin on your wrist underneath your watch. The sensor detects lung cancer bio-markers in the blood by using tiny light-emitting devices to read the implant which then transmits the information using bluetooth to a smart phone or a computer.
Most of us wear a watch everyday and many of them, nowadays, do a whole lot more than just keep the time. But a watch that can detect lung cancer? It seems far-fetched but it's not too far off.
A team of engineers at the University of Buffalo has been working on the concept for a few years now.
"We're developing a wearable device that in addition to telling you how many calories you burn, how many steps you walk, it can also tell you whether you're going to develop a cancer or not," said Dr. Josep Jornet, Electomagnetic Nanonetoworks at UB.
Here's how it works: It starts with a tiny sensor, invisible to the naked eye, that would have to be implanted just under the skin on your wrist. The sensor detects lung cancer bio-markers in the blood.
"By embedding a structure into a human body, you can get the blood test result anytime. When you want, they can record this data in the database so the doctor can go back to the database to extract some information they want to see," said Dr. Qiaoqiang Gan, Nano-Optics at UB.
The watch uses tiny light-emitting devices to read the implant then transmits the information using bluetooth to a smart phone or a computer.
"Each one of the elements is there, now what we need is the glue between them," said Dr. Jornet.
They also need to get real people on board with this ground-breaking idea -- starting with those who may be at a high-risk for lung cancer.
"If you want to randomly implant something in my body, this can be unusual but in the future this can be as normal as if we just have a band aid on my body, it should be as safe as that," said Dr. Zhi Sun, Wireless Intra-Body Networks.
The team has three years and a million dollars from the federal government to get the project off the ground. They're already working with Intel and a medical equipment company to bring this project to the clinical trial phase.
I asked them as we sat in their lab full of sensors and watch parts whether they ever stop to think about how a wristband that detects cancer could change the world.
"Millions of people are going to use it, of course, the next step which is really impacting the world. Well, sometimes we forget but yeah, you're right, we need to think about that, it's very exciting."
The team is building this and testing it for lung cancer right now but the technology, in theory, should work to identify other cancers and medical disorders too. We, of course, will keep up with the progress.