MIT engineers have devised a novel way to record a patient’s immunisation history: storing the information in a patterned dye that is invisible to the naked eye and delivered under the skin at the same time as the vaccine.
It is designed to bridge the gap that exists in medical records, particularly in developing countries, and emits a near-infrared light that can be detected by a specially equipped smartphone.
The new dye consists of nanocrystals called quantum dots and was described in the journal Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday.
It has so far been tested only on cadavers and rats but its researchers, who were financed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, hope to begin human testing in Africa in the next two years, said Ana Jaklenec, a biomedical engineer at MIT and the paper’s co-author.
Engineers spent a long time finding components that are safe for the body, stable and capable of lasting for several years.
The quantum dots are 3.7 nanometres in diameter, and are encapsulated in microparticles that form spheres 16 microns in diameter (a micron is a millionth of a meter while a nanometre is a billionth of a meter).
This is then applied to the skin via a microneedle patch rather than a traditional syringe and needle.