Spectrum clash builds around bionic implants

November 25, 2011 | Source: TechWorld

Next week, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission will consider whether four sets of frequencies between 413MHz and 457MHz can be used by networks of sensors implanted in patients who suffer from various forms of paralysis.

One intended purpose of these MMNS (medical micropower network systems) is to transmit movement commands from a sensor on a patient’s spinal cord, through a wearable MCU (master control unit), to implants that electrically stimulate nerves. The same wireless technology might be used in devices to restore sight or hearing.

The use of wireless networks between implants and MCUs could eliminate the need to implant trouble-prone networks of wires underneath a patient’s skin, said Alfred Mann Foundation CEO David Hankin. Because of its greater precision, the new technology can also gather more accurate input about how the patient wants to move and communicate that to specific nerves.

However, broadcast engineers are fighting the proposed rule, which would allow this, saying TV and radio stations already use one of the bands to broadcast live from news events and this might interfere with the body networks.