Localization of microscale devices in vivo using addressable transmitters operated as magnetic spins

  • Nature Biomedical Engineering 1736744 (2017)
  • doi:10.1038/s41551-017-0129-2
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The function of miniature wireless medical devices, such as capsule endoscopes, biosensors and drug-delivery systems, depends critically on their location inside the body. However, existing electromagnetic, acoustic and imaging-based methods for localizing and communicating with such devices suffer from limitations arising from physical tissue properties or from the performance of the imaging modality. Here, we embody the principles of nuclear magnetic resonance in a silicon integrated-circuit approach for microscale device localization. Analogous to the behaviour of nuclear spins, the engineered miniaturized radio frequency transmitters encode their location in space by shifting their output frequency in proportion to the local magnetic field; applied field gradients thus allow each device to be located precisely from its signal’s frequency. The devices are integrated in circuits smaller than 0.7 mm3 and manufactured through a standard complementary-metal-oxide-semiconductor process, and are capable of sub-millimetre localization in vitro and in vivo. The technology is inherently robust to tissue properties, scalable to multiple devices, and suitable for the development of microscale devices to monitor and treat disease.

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The authors thank A. Agarwal for insightful discussions and assistance with the chip design, and A. Shapero for assistance with chip encapsulation. We thank K.-C. Chen, M. Raj, B. Abiri, A. Safaripur, F. Bohn, H. Davis, P. Ramesh and G. Lu for helpful and constructive discussions. We appreciate the help and assistance of the Caltech High-speed Integrated Circuits group. This research was supported by the Heritage Medical Research Institute (M.G.S. and A.E.), the Burroughs Wellcome Fund (M.G.S.) and the Caltech Rosen Bioengineering Center graduate scholarship (M.M.).

Author information


  1. Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, 91125, USA

    • Manuel Monge
    •  & Azita Emami
  2. Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, 91125, USA

    • Audrey Lee-Gosselin
    •  & Mikhail G. Shapiro


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M.M., M.G.S. and A.E. conceived and planned the research. M.M. designed the integrated circuit and all printed circuit boards, and developed the code to program the FPGA. M.M. performed characterization and in vitro experiments. M.M. and A.L.-G. performed in vivo experiments. M.M. analysed data. M.M., M.G.S. and A.E. wrote the manuscript with input from all other authors. M.G.S. and A.E. supervised the research.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Mikhail G. Shapiro or Azita Emami.

Electronic supplementary material

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary discussion, figures and references.

  2. Life sciences reporting summary