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Pentagon creates microchip that senses COVID-19 in the body

The microchip, which reportedly does not track movements, is carried in a tissue-like gel and is designed to test the patient’s blood.

April 13, 2021 / 10:43 AM IST
File image of the Pentagon

File image of the Pentagon

Scientists at the Pentagon have created a microchip that, once inserted under the skin, can detect if the patient develops COVID-19, according to a report by The Independent.

The Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defence, has also developed a filter that can remove the novel coronavirus from a patient’s blood through a dialysis machine.

According to the report, researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have said that they worked for years on ways to prevent infections and end pandemics. Their work was revealed on the ‘60 Minutes’ show on US television channel CBS on April 11.

Moneycontrol could not independently verify the news reports.

The idea mooted after 1,271 sailors were infected onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier in 2020.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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The microchip, which reportedly does not track movements, is carried in a tissue-like gel and is designed to test the patient’s blood. “You put it underneath your skin and what that tells you is that there are chemical reactions going on inside the body, and that signal means you are going to have symptoms tomorrow,” explained Retired Colonel Matt Hepburn, an army infectious disease physician leading DARPA’s pandemic response.

“Sailors would get the signal, then self-administer a blood draw and test themselves on site,” the news report quoted Retired Colonel Hepburn as saying. “We can have that information in three to five minutes. As you truncate that time, as you diagnose and treat, what you do is you stop the infection in its tracks.”

Hepburn also reportedly said on the show that his team had invented a filter, which is placed on a dialysis machine, that would remove the virus from the blood. The treatment has now been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use and has been reportedly used to treat almost 300 patients.

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first published: Apr 13, 2021 10:43 am

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