MIT engineers have developed a way to store medical information under the skin, using a quantum dot dye that is delivered, along with a vaccine, by a micro needle patch. The dye, which is invisible to the naked eye, can be read later using a specially adapted smartphone.
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.
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.
Tests using human cadaver skin showed that the quantum-dot patterns could be detected by smartphone cameras after up to five years of simulated sun exposure. “This study presents a novel approach where the medical record is stored and controlled by the patient within the patient’s skin in a minimally invasive and elegant way.”
The researchers believe the quantum dots are safe to use in this way because they are encapsulated in a biocompatible polymer, but they plan to do further safety studies before testing them in patients.
The research was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Koch Institute Support, Grant from the National Cancer Institute.