At a recent conference sponsored by the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology, engineers from pacemaker giant Medtronic announced work on a new implantable heart-monitoring device that will transmit critical patient information to secure Internet sites. Physicians presumably would be able to access the information and use it to make decisions on treatment. Medtronic spokesman Syl Jones says the device, the Chronicle, is in clinical trials now and could possibly be generally available before the year's end. The company also plans to extend the technology to its defibrillators.
Giving Internet capability to such devices is only the latest in a string of technology advances engineers at Medtronic and other companies have developed to detect and treat medical problems and save lives. They are evidence that despite the headlines about breakthroughs in gene therapy and pharmaceutical drugs, some of the biggest miracles in medical technology continue to revolve around good old electromechanical device design.
Indeed, it's often that electromechanical design that makes drug-based therapy work. Medtronic, for example, is working with a drug company to refine the Chronicle design to monitor how drugs work in the heart.
No less an authority than the National Institutes of Health (NIH) supports the synergy of electromechanical design and biotechnology. A big winner in President Bush's first budget, the NIH has plans to fund several research projects this year that could lead to development of new machinery for medical applications, many of which will depend on materials and components to come from the manufacturing sector.
Electromechanical engineers have been producing medical miracles for years. Gene therapy is relatively new. Electromechanical design and biotechnology is a natural combination that holds great promise for even more medical breakthroughs in the years ahead.
Paul E. Teague email@example.com