Pentagon researchers have developed a microchip that can be inserted under the skin to detect COVID-19 infection before a person begins to show symptoms.
“This is a sensor,” said Dr. Matt Hepburn, an infectious disease doctor and a retired army colonel. “This little green thing inside, you put it under your skin, and what it tells you is that there are chemical reactions going on in your body, and that signal means you’re going to have symptoms tomorrow.”
The technology was developed by the Agency for Advanced Defense Research Projects, a top-secret unit created during the Cold War era that studies emerging technologies and how they can be applied to military use.
Hepburn said the microchip was used only by the Department of Defense and could detect a COVID-1
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“We challenge the research community to come up with solutions that may sound like science fiction,” Hepburn said.
Hepburn likened the microchip to a car “engine check” indicator, warning the user of a positive COVID-19 infection and directing him to take a test to confirm the result.
“We can get that information in three to five minutes,” Hepburn said. “As you shorten this time as you diagnose and treat, what you do is stop the infection from following it.”
DARPA scientists believe that technology will be crucial to stopping outbreaks among employees, who are often forced to be in cramped spaces together for long periods of time.
Another DARPA scientist, Dr. James Crowe, said the department hoped to eventually focus on developing vaccines, saying it could “start with a blood sample from a survivor … and inject your medicine into within 60 days’.
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“For us at DARPA, if your experts laugh and say it’s impossible, you’re in the right space,” Hepburn said.