The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is the research arm of the United States Department of Defense, has awarded a grant worth $7.5 million to San Francisco-based Profusa for the development of tissue-integrated biosensors.
The project, which is in collaboration with the United States Army Research Office, will look to use the implantable biosensors for simultaneous and continuous monitoring of multiple body chemistries.
The technology will be used by the military to monitor the health status of soldiers in real time to make improvements to mission efficiency. The grant will also support Profusa's development of sensors to detect the chemical constituents of the bodies of the soldiers.
Among the body chemistry data of soldiers that the biosensors will be able to measure are the metabolic status, dehydration status, blood gases and ion panels.
The vision of Profusa, as said by the company's CEO and chairman, is to replace chemistry panels that measure several biomarkers only at certain points in time with a biosensor that will provide a continuous stream of data.
The technology of Profusa is unique, as the biosensors it creates are able to overcome the natural reaction of the human body to reject foreign bodies, which is the biggest hurdle in the long-term usage of biosensors.
The biosensors, which are comprised of a bioengineered "smart hydrogel" that is similar to the material used for contact lenses, are embedded just under the skin through the use of a special injector. The biosensors are flexible and are only 2 millimeters to 5 millimeters in length and 200 microns to 500 microns in diameter.
The material of the biosensors forms a porous scaffold that can integrate the human tissue, inducing cellular and capillary in-growth from the tissue surrounding the biosensor. The biosensors have been proven to overcome the body's natural foreign body response of rejection for more than a year.
The biosensors connect to optical readers that send real-time information to a smartphone app. The data is also sent to digital networks, which will allow analysts such as those in the health care industry to use the information in studies.
Critics have claimed that such biosensors will eventually lead to the government being able to intrude on the privacy of its citizens. However, Profusa says that the technology can also be used by civilians for helpful purposes, such as in diabetes management.
Another DARPA-funded project that recently made the news is a mind-controlled bionic arm that has been named after Star Wars' Luke Skywalker.