Remember Fantastic Voyage? Now Think Injectable Electronics.


PC: Mars. P via Flickr Creative Commons

I had first read Isaac Asimov’s Fantastic Voyage when I was in grade school. I’m a huge fan of Asimov, so I had expected to like the book, but I was pretty much wowed by it. Here’s the blurb from Amazon for those who haven’t come across it already:

Four men and a woman are reduced to a microscopic fraction of their original size, sent in a miniaturized atomic sub through a dying man’s carotid artery to destroy a blood clot in his brain. If they fail, the entire world will be doomed.

Cool, right? What I didn’t know then was the history behind the story. Here’s a little of that from Wikipedia:

Fantastic Voyage is a 1966 medical science fiction film written by Harry Kleiner, based on a story by Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby. The film is about a scientist who’s nearly killed in an assassination attempt, and the medical team who shrink to microscopic size and venture into his body to repair damage to his brain. However, an unknown assailant tries to sabotage their mission.The original story took place in the 19th century and was meant to be a Jules Verne–inspired adventure tale with a sense of wonder.

Bantam Books obtained the rights for a paperback novelization based on the screenplay and approached Isaac Asimov to write it. Because the novelization was released six months before the movie, many people mistakenly believed Asimov’s book had inspired the film.

I saw the movie years after I had read the book and it was a pretty enjoyable one too.

I digress. I was reminded of Fantastic Voyage on reading an article on ScienceDaily. Of course, we haven’t gone as far as shrinking humans down to nanoelectronics size yet, so the injectable electronics have to make do, but it’s such a similar concept. Here’s a snippet from the article:

It’s a notion that might be pulled from the pages of science-fiction novel — electronic devices that can be injected directly into the brain, or other body parts, and treat everything from neurodegenerative disorders to paralysis.

It sounds unlikely, until you visit Charles Lieber’s lab.

A team of international researchers, led by Lieber, the Mark Hyman, Jr. Professor of Chemistry, an international team of researchers developed a method for fabricating nano-scale electronic scaffolds that can be injected via syringe. Once connected to electronic devices, the scaffolds can be used to monitor neural activity, stimulate tissues and even promote regenerations of neurons. The study is described in a June 8 paper in Nature Nanotechnology.

Link to the rest of the article, here.

S.G. Basu is an aspiring potentate of a galaxy or two. She plots and plans with wondrous machines, cybernetic robots, time travelers and telekinetic adventurers, some of whom escape into the pages of her books. Once upon a previous life on planet Earth, S.G. Basu trained to be an engineer, and her interest in science and her love of engineering shows up time and again in her books.

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