Monday, July 3, 2017

Innovations in medicine and bio-electromagnetics with Tilmann Wittig.

A few weeks ago, we published an introduction to the exciting world of bio-electromagnetic simulation. This highly specialized area of EM simulation boasts some of the most fascinating real world applications for EM simulation. Principal Engineer and Market Coordinator for bio-EM, Tilmann Wittig shares some of the innovations he is most interested in right now. Read on to see how EM simulation can help develop solutions for cancer treatment and detection, diabetes, head injuries, and more.

What in Bio-EM is most interesting for you right now?
The medical world is definitely the most challenging one because we need to see inside the body so,
in a mobile phone, the bio-EM is a parasitic side effect. We need to be careful of it, it’s important, but it’s not very fascinating but everything inside the body is much more fascinating.
I'm interested in all these tiny implants, which hopefully in the future may revolutionize our medical approaches. There’s research now into improving the pacemaker. The classic pacemaker is about 5x5cm wide, and 80% of it is the battery because it needs to last a long time because replacement requires invasive surgery. So why not use a more clever approach, like wireless charging and controlling and programming them from the outside? So, we have some customers who are looking at a pacemaker that’s  5x5x5mm, incredibly small. That means it can be put in laparoscopically which is minimally invasive and when it’s in it can be fully controlled from the outside. For that, you could have a wearable antenna that is both controlling the pacemaker and charging it, That could mean that hopefully in the future, getting a pacemaker is much less of a big deal than it is nowadays.

The second topic I find quite interesting is imaging because we want to be able to see what the body looks like on the inside. We need to be aware that 80-90% of images done of the human body are done by X-ray, which is what’s called “ionizing radiation” and that means it has a lot of power, which is good because it allows us to see inside a body, but it has so much power that could potentially crack our DNA. If that happens, if our DNA is cracked, we are lucky if the cell just dies, but if we are unlucky, it turns into a cancer cell. Today we rely on the use of x-rays, including CT (computer tomography) and mammography. CT is basically a three-dimensional x-ray, which means the dose is even higher, something like 50x the dose of radiation from a normal x-ray. While the levels are still low, there is still a risk of cancer, so researchers are trying to get away from x-ray for this reason.
Modeling Temperature Effects of RF Thermoablation in a
 Human Liver

Are there better, smarter ways to get the same images without putting patients at risk of DNA corruption and cancer? 
Microwave radiation is the answer to that, and we already have microwave imaging in MRI and that’s quite established. There are also other ways that researchers and scientists are developing using the same concept you have in a radar antenna to see into the body. There are research groups working on this by putting an array of 20-50 antennas on different parts of the body and those antennas are sending and receiving signals and from those signals, they try to analyze how it might look inside. The two main applications for that are breast cancer, so any kind of tissue abnormalities and also brain damage.
So, let’s say someone has an accident. It’s very difficult to know what’s wrong with the brain,  whether there is bleeding for example. The dream for the future is to have a helmet with one of these arrays, and you send out these microwave imaging signals and within 20 seconds you can get an answer, everything is fine, or there’s bleeding and the person needs immediate care. It’s common that people with head injuries can show no symptoms, if someone is coherent and speaking the people around them may think nothing is wrong with them, so this kind of quick and easy test can save lives.

CST recently awarded the 2017 University Award for a paper detailing this innovative method of intracranial hemorrhage detection. Read it here!

Treatment is the third area of interest, and there is a lot of innovation happening there. For example, we have an application note on thermal ablation, in which a diode is inserted into a cancerous tumor and it’s heated up to kill those cancer cells. That’s pretty amazing, but now there is an idea to do this non-invasively with just antennas. That works by giving the patient heat sensitive drugs that are designed to pool in a specific part of the body and then we can use antennas to send a small amount of heat to that area and only heat-sensitive drugs get hot enough to kill the cancerous part while not harming the rest of the body.

Read Modeling Temperature Effects of RF Thermoablation in a Human Liver using the Bioheat Formulation in CST STUDIO SUITE

Researchers have found an antenna-related diabetes solution as well. Today, people must prick themselves to test their blood sugar. There is a concept out there for a contact lens that has sensors in it to read the blood sugar from the eye fluid. This contact has an antenna that can communicate with a person’s phone and their doctor, so they know their blood sugar at any given time without drawing blood. The Internet of Things is really exciting when it comes to biomedical advances, and there is a lot of interest in this area. At our recent workshop in Santa Clara, this was a topic that many of our participants were interested in.
Temperature distribution inside the body of a patient
 undergoing hyperthermia 

How is CST supporting these advances?

One of the ways CST is supporting these advances is by having accurate biological material properties for models because a simulation is only as good as the model and that’s complicated in this area. We also provide dedicated post-processing tools which allow medical professionals to be able to understand and to use these simulations. Many of them aren’t engineers, so we have to find a way to convert these EM fields and images into quantities they will understand.

CST Workshops are a great chance to learn about EM Simulation in general, and our bio-EM specific workshops offer detailed insight into IOT, sport wearables, and medical advances. The workshops are always different based on where they occur and who attends, so while providing the same information about our software and the benefits of simulation participants also get to be involved in a variety of interesting conversations.

Dr. Tilmann Wittig 

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