The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced a project with the U.S. Army Research Office to develop tissue-integrated biosensor technology. Profusa, a San Francisco company, was awarded a $7.5 million grant from DARPA to lead the development.
The U.S. military is interested in developing the technology to aid in real-time monitoring of combat soldier health vitals. Profusa chairman and CEO Ben Hwang said, “Profusa’s vision is to replace a point-in-time chemistry panel that measures multiple biomarkers, such as oxygen, glucose, lactate, urea, and ions with a biosensor that provides a continuous stream of wireless data,” according to QMed.
The U.S. military hopes that this technology will improve mission efficiency and provide real-time information that allows soldiers to quickly address health issues that may affect the mission. Profusa’s bioengineering approach to an implantable biosensor allegedly overcomes the body’s natural reaction to reject foreign material. The sensors are made of a “smart hydrogel” similar to contact lens material.
The sensors are implanted approximately two to four millimeters below the surface of the skin, and are only three to five millimeters long. At 500 microns in diameter, the sensors are tiny, and packing that much tech into such a small package is an impressive feat. Each biosensor is a soft, flexible fiber that is designed to be compatible with body tissues for up to two years.
The sensor interfaces with an optical reader that communicates with a smartphone application to provide users with real-time information for actionable decisions. Data is also shared through digital networks that allow health care providers and public health analysts to perform long term studies with wide-ranging information.
Critics claim that this type of technology brings the government one step closer to implantable sensors that are capable of violating privacy. Profusa counters that the technology can be utilized in a civilian capacity to manage chronic diseases like diabetes.