Wearable technologies have come a long way since Steve Mann first donned a clunky headset in the early 1980s. Today, driven largely by smartwatches and fitness trackers, consumer-orientated wearable devices are expected to ship 215 million units annually by 2019. But, although these products provide a wealth of motion- and location-based data, they lack the interface required to gather clinical information about the physiological status of the body, or to make therapeutic interventions when needed. That must be left to implantable devices such as glucose sensors, pacemakers and implantable drug delivery systems, all of which still require surgical intervention and are still relatively underdeveloped.
Impressions of futuristic Micro Transdermal Interface Platform technologies:
At Tyndall National Institute, our team is developing wearable ‘smart patches’ that will address the opportunity lying between non-invasive consumer devices and implantable medical devices. This roadmap envisages intelligent, patch-like systems, capable of independently diagnosing physiological conditions and autonomously delivering relevant therapeutic doses, while simultaneously relaying information to clinical personnel and mHealth software platforms.
MicroTIPs will be defined by their minimally invasive interaction with the body. In order to be painlessly self-administrable by the user and yet be capable of gathering relevant physiological data and achieving transdermal delivery, MicroTIPs must physically penetrate the skin to a depth of no more than 500mm.
This will be enabled using our expertise in microneedle technologies - arrays of short, sharp microstructures that can be customized for use in transdermal drug and vaccine delivery, sensing and diagnostics. MicroTIPs will require other ancillary subsystems for data analysis and storage, power management, system validation and control, and wireless communications. All of these must be integrated and packaged in a flexible and unobtrusive form factor.
These high-value, closed loop systems, which we now refer to as Micro Transdermal Interface Platforms (MicroTIPs), will have significant applications in diabetes management, stress monitoring, Parkinson’s treatment and cardiac health, as well as in consumer-orientated areas such as sports nutrition and consumer lifestyle.