Ada Poon, an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, is pioneering research to develop electronic therapies to heal the body from within, working to add control and feedback for a closed-loop system that could improve therapeutic outcomes. These new electronic devices, which can be programmed to respond to the body’s feedback and modulate their own effects after implantation, are called electroceuticals.

Ada Poon is developing tiny electronic devices to dispense treatments or monitor functions deep inside the body.
Photo courtesy of Poon Lab

Challenges included sizing down the device sufficiently, and creating a power source using wireless power transfer to a miniaturized medical device implanted deep inside the body. Over several years, working alongside biologists in an interdisciplinary setting, Poon discovered how to safely and efficiently beam electromagnetic energy into the body.

This has enabled her team to create tiny electronic devices that can be wirelessly powered or recharged from outside the body. One is a prototype designed to swim through a patient’s circulatory system to deliver drugs or perform tests. Another is a pacemaker smaller than a grain of rice, which can be recharged by holding a credit-card-sized power transmitter up to the chest.

Currently, she is helping to design a wireless biosensor that could continuously monitor the drug concentration in the bloodstream of chemotherapy patients, so that the dose can be self-regulated and save patients from excessive exposure to the toxic chemicals.