By 2014 the Army may issue more than combat gear to deploying soldiers. University of Connecticut researchers are developing an implantable chip that would be injected under soldiers’ skin to help monitor vital health information while they are out in the field.
Embedding the sensor is more complex than simply getting a shot in the wrist, because of the body’s immune system reaction. “The (body’s) reaction is inflammation, what you typically see if you get scab or splinter. Inflammation is the body’s reaction to get rid of foreign matters,” said Dianne Burgess, professor of pharmaceutics at UConn and member of the research team.
To trick the body into not attacking the sensor, researchers have created a gel coating that contains time-release anti-inflammatory medication. Burgess said they have created a sensor that would stay implanted in a person for at least three months.
A prototype of the sensor has been assembled and the university will use this new grant to work on synchronizing the implantable nanosensor with the wrist transmitter.
UConn researchers believe a fully functional device is five years away from human testing. But they are not the only researchers working in the field.
“The competition is unbelievable,” Papadimitrakopoulos said. “But we believe we are very advanced.”
Clemson University in South Carolina is also in the race to develop an implantable sensor to monitor soldiers’ vital signs. In July the Department of Defense gave the school $1.6 million to develop similar technology.
UConn scientists are looking at ways to use the technology to help change the way diabetics monitor their blood sugar and live their lives.
“Right now (diabetics) prick their fingers five times a day and we don’t have a picture of what happens in between,” Burgess said. This sensor would be “completely revolutionary.”
She said the nanosensor could be used by diabetics to help understand how their bodies respond to eating and exercise and in turn produce an individualized medication and care plan.