Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Nanobots And Your Health

I got an email from a friend yesterday that said this:

Here's my idea for some scientific dudes to make millions off of: I want a pill I can swallow that contains some kind of microtechnology that will scan my system to determine which hormones are not present or at insufficient levels and just release those hormones. Every time you take the pill it determines your need of the day and provides it. Vitamins, too.
There is at least one scientific dude who has a similar notion. The futuristic medical concept I read about today is not exactly the same as what my friend asked for. There are no pills to swallow. I'm doubting pill swallowing was really her goal, though. I think what she really wants is some sort of automatic health monitoring system, something that could collect and analyse physical data, and treat imbalances it found in her system. Thus we return to a favorite Meow topic, nanotech.

Tracy Staedter, at Discovery.com last October, wrote about one man's vision for a dermal display that would report all sorts of snazzy medical data, like heart-rate and cholesterol.

The dermal display, still a theoretical idea based on fact, is being worked on by Robert A. Freitas, Jr., a senior research fellow at the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing in Palo Alto, Calif.

The display would consist of billions of light-emitting robots implanted under the skin and capable of rearranging themselves to spell out words and numbers and produce animations.

They would display data received from other nanobots in the body designed to monitor a person's vital signs. Instructions from the patient could be communicated by touch-screen-like finger taps on the skin.

There would be billions of nanobots spread throughout the body collecting readings, and communicating them to the display. One cool thing is that the nanobots would feed off the same energy we do, so they would, in effect, be self sustaining. Staedter goes on to say:

Sitting about 200 to 300 microns below the surface of the skin, the display would consist of about three billion nanorobots that cover a rectangular area on the back of hand or the forearm about six by five centimeters.

The mote-sized machines would maintain their respective positions in a predetermined array and draw on local sources of oxygen and glucose for power.

When turned on, they would emit light through diode-like elements embedded in their surface. When turned off by the user, the skin would resume its natural color.

Here's the part my friend will like the best, "Not only could the dermal display be used for medical purposes, but it could also be used as an embedded PDA, MP3, or video player. " Arm TV--on every kid's Christmas list.

This article didn't talk about the treatment end of things, but good grief, if the time comes when they can invent Arm TV, I'm sure they will be able to deliver vitamins, and keep your hormones in balance, along with cleaning the cholesterol out of your blood, repairing heart tissue, eradicating cancer cells...

Hat tip: Futurismic


  1. How come the idea sounds so much smarter after you rephrase it?

    Next the nanobots will rearrange themselves into temporary total body tatoos, so you can be leopard spotted or whatever.
    Then the little buggers will take over your body and you'll wake up suddenly in the middle of a WWF ring trading punches with Undertaker.

  2. Cool idea, except for the Undertaker part, and the nanobots taking over your body part. With a nanobot temporary total body tatoo I could actually have a tan in the summer (or winter) without all the harmful UV rays.

  3. What if those darn things become self-aware and learn to reproduce and decide to relocate to your cerebellum? Game OVER!

  4. Oh, my gosh.....just think of the endless advertising possibilities! Maybe I could make a living walking around minding my own business. My skin and it's hosted nano-friends could be able to have an ever available array of programming to suit the environment around me. What do you think, kind of minority report style? not shape-shifting, but ad-shifting for the masses. Or temporary tattoo style, like suggested, but more in the Nascar tradition. Every open space covered. :):) Gives me the creeps just thinking about it.

  5. EEEWW. That is creepy. Way to take the idea to its ludicrous (and probably accurate) extreme!! Taking things to their ludicrous extreme was a favorite Desperate Measures pastime. Funny thing was, we found it got harder as time went on. Things in the world were already so far beyond the ludicrous; it became hard to spoof them.

  6. You know our wonderful, wonderful world! Anything with potential is exploited to it's fullest money making possibility or it's most base level. Oh, isn't that what I said? How redundant of me......:)

    Another sad extension of human nature would be that in the real world, most people would end of being in debt to companies and OWE them the right to use their bodies as walking billboards....even creepier. OK, 'nuf said!

  7. Oh My Gosh, you are just too good at coming up with really icky scenarios. You should be writing for some really morbid sci fi magazine. Stop scaring me, okay?

  8. 'kay!!! I think I should start paying attention to reality anyway......but the sad thing for me is that reality is finite. Maybe that's why sci-fi is attractive to me (morbid or not :)
    it's open and infinite. Love you!!!

  9. Bubba, according to Ray Kurzweil's Singularity theory (if I'm reading it correctly) we should actually want nanobots in our brains. They will enhance us, and help us overcome our own limited mental capacities and little nuisances like mortality. Granted, we may not ultimately be able to tell whether we are talking to man or machine, but who cares? We'll be able to calculate pi in our heads to the 9,463,584th decimal.

  10. Built-in nanobot Instant Messaging would then provide the doorway to telepathy, too.

  11. That's okay, as long as I can read your thoughts, but you can't read mine. That would be fun. I think. On the other hand, maybe I don't want to read your thoughts. Maybe it would be a look into a dark psychotic world, too full of horrible imagery for me to witness and still keep my sanity. Perhaps it would damage my self esteem, to know what you really think of me; or maybe it would just be boring. Let's skip the telepathy. It sounds like a drag. If God had wanted us in each other's heads, he would have made them hollow.

  12. Ok, this is soooo fun, really!
    But doesn't this make anyone think of a prettier version of the Borg?
    All internal, minute, but even if programmed, a possible collective consciousness. However unaware they might be to start, you KNOW they'll take over. It's the only possible outcome......:):)

    I wouldn't mind having a little calculator "tatoo" on my wrist though.....I may not want them in my head, but I really don't like math. I am too impatient, however capable :):) There! a truly utilitarian use. Maybe add a telephone, a mirror, and ooooh, I know, they could scrub my teeth for me, all the time!!!! Think of the hours we could save in a lifetime.....and oh my gosh, the benefits to kidney dialysis....


  13. You can't stop. Not anymore. The secret nanobot brigade came in your sleep, and implanted you without your knowledge, and now it's not even you talking anymore. It's THEM!!! (Cue scary music, dim the lights, and turn up the volume on a lone irregular heartbeat.) Oh, wait. The nanobots are in control so the heartbeat would be rock steady, ominously steady...

  14. Amen to the rock steady heartbeart! (Ha) I can only dream (sigh).

    I was just thinking - if we COULD actually swallow a pill with all the smart little nanos that could fix all the poorly working areas of our bodies, then couldn't they also be like a lyposuction, face lift type alternative? I'm currently reading a book (yes, it IS sci-fi)in that a certain race uses a life form that is kinda like a shapeshifter from StarTrek Deep Space 9 era which envelopes the person, soaking into every pore al over the body and creates a new face, thus disguising them in order for them to do their evil. Of course now people would use them to create that "perfect image". Imagine the millions of individuals who would sign up for that - the newest craze since Botox!

    I do like the nanotan idea though - who knows if the lotion tanners that they have now won't end up causing some other form of cancer in the future? Hey, then the nanos can go in there and fix it for you!

    Ooo, the never ending NEED for those little nanobudies. It's all a plot you see, the nanodudes have already invaded - they have put them in the water, and you drunk it.

    It's too late now.......now we will forever be beholden to whomever has the power over the nanos. Ooooo-ooooo-ooooo-oooo (cue ghostly ooing here)!

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