A “GPS for inside your body” is revolutionizing cancer treatment

A team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) led by professor Dina Katabi is working on what they call an “in-body GPS” system called ReMix. The method uses low-power wireless signals to locate tiny tracking ingestible devices with centimeter-level accuracy.

Researchers hope to use ReMix to track shifting tumors, take images and even deliver drugs, thus revolutionizing both the treatment of some types of aggressive cancers, as well as the pharmaceutical industry. Watch this video to see how the system works.

So far, the CSAIL researchers team tested the ReMix on animals with great results. But its location accuracy would need to have a margin of error closer to a couple of millimeters before it can be used in a clinical setting, Healthcare Weekly reports.

One potential application for ReMix is in proton therapy.

This therapy involves bombarding cancer tumors with beams of magnet-controlled protons. With a small marker like ReMix, doctors could track the tumor in real-time and deliver higher doses of radiation with a very high degree of precision, without harming healthy organs in the process.

Moving forward, the team hopes to combine wireless signals with other data such as MRI scans to hone the system’s accuracy, but also to create a more efficient algorithm that can sense subtle differences between types of patient bodies.

“We want a model that’s technically feasible, while still complex enough to accurately represent the human body,” said PhD student Deepak Vasisht, lead author on the new paper.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning represents a huge part of the CSAIL researchers’ work; they have been recently working on improving electronic health records using AI.

ReMix is further proof that cancer treatment is heading towards a smart tech era. AI systems capable of distinguishing cancer subtypes and tailoring the treatment based on a patient’s individual genetic response are making their way into hospitals around the world.

Pharma companies doing research in cancer, cell therapy and stem cell research is an emerging business. For example, in a recent interview, Simon Sterzer, chairman for Biocardia Inc discussed how the company he co-founded uses stem cells to treat heart failure resulting from a heart attack. However, as Simon Sterzer also mentioned in a recent podcast, companies innovating in this space may still have a long way to go as these innovations are not without risks or limitations.

Overall though the pharma industry is booming and healthcare startups are turning a new leaf in attracting new funds in 2018. According to Healthcare Weekly, the top ten healthcare technology startups have received a staggering $1.7 billion dollars in funding over the last year.

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