Applications of Biotelemetry for Medical Use in Humans

Biotelemetry was first used on humans so that a doctor could obtain data from distant patients (for more information, please go to the History page). Many of the most recent developments of biotelemetry, such as implantable sensor arrays and implantable bolus injectors, have, however, been exclusively for use in animals and have not yet been certified for use in humans. Because of the strict regulation and guidelines of organizations like the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, the safety and reliability of such systems must first be proved in animals before studies with humans can be conducted.

The transition of such technologies to medical use in humans is not extremely far off. With wireless, implantable sensors and injectors being used in animals now, it is only a matter of time until they can be used to benefit humans more directly than just through use in drug development.

Biotelemetry could be potentially useful in humans because it would allow researchers and physicians to receive constant feedback about the state of a patient's health. This would result in more effective and more personalized medicine. It would also heighten the accuracy of data, because blood pressure taken in a doctor's office is not necessarily relevant to the state of the patient at all times. If a person had an implanted sensor that could measure and relay crucial information to his/her physician at all times, diseases and potentially life-threatening conditions could be caught in their early stages. This is the essence of preventative medicine. Essentially, medical costs could be significantly reduced because someone would only have to pay for a relatively inexpensive drug or treatment early on, rather than having to pay for an expensive surgery later. It could also increase the efficiency of health care, as a physician could know exactly when it would be most helpful to give a patient a drug and could save people from having to go to the emergency room.

Pathologies that would benefit greatly by human biotelemetric implants are:

  • Kidney Disease

Shown below is a diagram of a kidney in the human body, as well as a cross section of one.  (Citation e8)

The kidney is responsible for removing toxins from the bloodstream and passing them on to the urinary tract, where they are expelled. A kidney can fail if  the level of toxins in the bloodstream exceeds the kidney's ability to process them.  If a kidney fails, the secondary one can operate on its own, but losing both would lead to toxin buildup in the bloodstream.  (Citation a13)

In vivo biotelemetry could allow continuous monitoring of toxins in a patient's bloodstream, giving  early warning if it appears that a kidney is struggling to cope.

  • Liver Disease

 Shown below is a diagram of the liver.  (Citation e10)

The liver is responsible for, among many other things, protein synthesis and the creation of different enzymes used in metabolism. Chronic alcohol consumption can lead to liver failure. Any disease which compromises the liver inhibits the human body's ability to synthesize these proteins and would be fatal.  (Citation a14)

In vivo monitoring of the liver would give early warning to doctors if the patient's liver appeared to be failing- allowing rapid treatment before it becomes a potentially lethal situation.

  • Heart Disease

Below is a cross section of a human heart.  (Citation e9)

The heart is responsible for pumping blood through an organism's system.  Heart failure is often a result of a congenital defect or a buildup of cholesterol. Without the heart, nutrients and oxygen could not get to their target areas and the organism's cells and organs would asphyxiate and die.  (Citation a15)

In vivo monitoring of the heart would allow for rapid response if the slightest sign of heart failure occurred, allowing for easy solutions to a problem that, if untreated early, could escalate rapidly. 

  • Diabetes 

Diabetes is a condition in which the human body cannot regulate insulin, leading to lower than normal levels of insulin in the bloodstream. Since insulin allows cells to absorb glucose and use it as fuel, lack of insulin leads to sugar build-up in the bloodstream.  (Citation a16)

If the insulin and blood sugar levels of a diabetic could be constantly monitored, insulin infusions could be timed and injected for their maximum effect. 

(Citation b1)

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