Los wearables intracorporales pueden ser la clave del futuro de la medicina

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CLAVES:

  • A día de hoy vemos a los wearables como simples complementos, como un sustituto de las pulseras y los relojes que introducen nuevas funcionalidades.
  • Pero puede pensarse en ir un paso más allá: la implantación de dispositivos wearables en el interior o en la superficie del cuerpo.
  • Un primer paso podrían ser sensores montados sobre la piel, que ya es un nivel donde se puede analizar temperatura, pulso, ritmo respiratorio y exposición a los rayos ultravioleta.
  • Los retos pasan por hacer sensores que no sean rechazados por el sistema inmunológicoy que por otra parte no sean tóxicos y duren lo suficientemente como para no tener que cambiarlos cada poco tiempo.
  • Podemos imaginar, incluso, dispositivos que gradualmente ayuden al cuerpo liberando micromedicinas encapsuladas en polímero.
  • Plantearlo a otros niveles puede ser más traumático a nivel de privacidad, pero no dejan de ser interesantes otras aplicaciones en el campo de la identificación o el pago.

El inicio de la década que estamos atravesando vivió la consolidación del smartphone moderno de calidad. Lo que en principio se veía como algo accesorio e inútil, forzó unos cambios estructurales a nivel de infraestructura que hicieron posible que se popularizara y sembrara las semillas de lo que luego sería esta sociedad conectada que ahora estamos experimentando. Los pronósticos con los wearables parece que de momento no son tan optimistas, ya que sólo los tratamos como accesorios, pero pocas veces nos preguntamos qué viene después de ellos, más allá de pensar en ello como sustitutos de las pulseras o relojes que hasta ahora teníamos.

Pero, ¿qué podría llegar a suponer llevar a los wearables al interior o a la superficie del cuerpo? En la medicina actual, ya se introducen en el cuerpo herramientas que cumplen funciones muy sencillas. En la ciencia ficción ya hemos visto ejemplos de lo que sería esto. Es muy interesante ver cómo puede progresar este tema de cara a la salud y a la monitorización de valores importantes del organismo y de control y prevención.

Información relacionada:

NATURE. The inside story on wearable electronics. 1 de diciembre de 2015 [Consultado 18-12-2015]. Disponible en: http://www.nature.com/news/the-inside-story-on-wearable-electronics-1.18906

En primer lugar, claro, se está investigando a nivel externo. Hablamos de sensores montados sobre la piel, que ya es un nivel donde se puede analizar temperatura, pulso y ritmo respiratorio. El equipo de John Rogers, trabajando en la Universidad de Illinois, ha estado desarrollando sensores para la piel, integrados de manera totalmente natural y que se degradan con el paso del tiempo sin contaminar. Permiten también medir la hidratación o la exposición de la piel a luz ultravioleta. Esto es muy útil en medicina, por ejemplo, para recién nacidos, que con esto no requerirían ser cableados.

Otras propuestas son las de Takao Someya y Zhenan Bao, de las universidades de Tokio y Stanford respectivamente. En el caso del primero, encontramos un sensor de un micrómetro de grosor, pero muy robusto. Ofrece lecturas de cantidad de oxígeno en sangre, humedad y temperatura. Esto se consigue utilizando componentes orgánicos basados en polímeros de carbón. Debido a que pueden ser impresos en láminas de plástico, son muy baratos. En el caso de Bao también encontramos interés por la piel, y el sensor de su equipo puede indicar dureza en los vasos sanguíneos, que puede ser indicador de un infarto futuro.

Pero claro, mucho más puede hacerse penetrando en la piel, como decíamos al principio, de cara a conocer mucho más. Los retos pasan por hacer sensores que no sean rechazados por el sistema inmunológico y que por otra parte no sean tóxicos y duren lo suficientemente como para no tener que cambiarlos cada poco tiempo. Justo este es el mayor problema de los actuales, la degradación, que los hace durar semanas. Y en esto trabaja Michael Strano en el MIT, donde ha desarrollado un material que se puede mezclar con un gel basado en agua e inyectado como un tatuaje. Con esto hallan el valor del óxido nítrico en la sangre, cuyos valores pueden indicar infecciones y en algún caso, cáncer. Lo próximo puede ser un dispositivo que gradualmente ayude en el cuerpo a liberar micromedicinas encapsuladas en polímero.

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Fuente: “The inside story on wearable electronics”, Nature.

Como vemos, resulta apasionante lo que podremos hacer en el futuro a nivel médico. Plantearlo a otros niveles puede ser más traumático por motivos de privacidad, pero no dejan de ser interesantes otras aplicaciones en el campo de la identificación o los pagos, donde se llegaría a la verdadera conveniencia. De esa manera podríamos integrar todo lo que sería nuestro documento de identificación nacional en el cuerpo, y librarnos para siempre de tarjetas. Al fin y al cabo, el cuerpo ya ofrece algo similar pero muy analógico, como es la huella dactilar.

HIPERTEXTUAL. Los wearables intracorporales pueden ser la clave del futuro de la medicina. 3 de diciembre de 2015 [Consultado 18-12-2015]. Disponible en: http://hipertextual.com/2015/12/wearables-sensores-intracorporales

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