Mass General, MIT team develops experimental 'in-body GPS' system

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An "in-body GPS" system in development at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge could one day improve treatment for cancer patients, according to the multi-institutional research team.

Researchers from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and University of Waterloo in Canada are developing the so-called GPS system, dubbed "ReMix." ReMix uses a system of low-power wireless signals to pinpoint the location of ingestible implants, which can track abnormalities inside the body — for example, tumors.

The work is still in an experimental research phase. However, the research team hopes similar technology could one day be used to deliver drugs to specific regions of the body .

In animal tissue, ReMix can track the movement of a small implant with centimeter-level accuracy, according to study results presented at a recent conference in Budapest, Hungary. To be ready for use in a clinical setting, project lead and MIT professor Dina Katabi, PhD, said ReMix would need a margin of error closer to a few millimeters.

In a follow-up study, the researchers plan to improve the system's accuracy by combining data from the wireless signals with medical data, such as MRI scans.

A promising application for ReMix, according to the researchers, is proton therapy — a type of cancer treatment that involves targeting tumors with high doses of radiation. With a system like ReMix, a physician could use an ingestible implant to track a tumor's movements, leading to more precise therapy and a lower chance of exposing healthy tissue to radiation if a tumor moves.

"If we want to use this technology on actual cancer patients one day, it will have to come from better modeling a person's physical structure," Deepak Vasisht, a PhD student at MIT and lead author on the paper, said in a news release. "We want a model that's technically feasible, while still complex enough to accurately represent the human body."

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