Storing medical information below the skin’s surface

 

Every year, a lack of vaccination leads to about 1.5 million preventable deaths, primarily in developing nations. One factor that makes vaccination campaigns in those nations more difficult is that there is little infrastructure for storing medical records, so there’s often no easy way to determine who needs a particular vaccine.

MIT researchers have now developed a novel way to record a patient’s vaccination history: storing the data in a pattern of dye, invisible to the naked eye, that is delivered under the skin at the same time as the vaccine.

“In areas where paper vaccination cards are often lost or do not exist at all, and electronic databases are unheard of, this technology could enable the rapid and anonymous detection of patient vaccination history to ensure that every child is vaccinated,” says Kevin McHugh, a former MIT postdoc who is now an assistant professor of bioengineering at Rice University.

The researchers showed that their new dye, which consists of nanocrystals called quantum dots, can remain for at least five years under the skin, where it emits near-infrared light that can be detected by a specially equipped smartphone.
The research was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Koch Institute Support (core) Grant from the National Cancer Institute.


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