This Tiny Injectable Biochip Could Track How Drunk You Are, Scientists Say

Developed by engineers at the University of San Diego, the chip is inserted under the skin and reacts when it comes in contact with alcohol.
April 12, 2018, 2:04pm
Photo via David Baillot/UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

Scientists in the US have developed a new way of measuring alcohol levels: by injecting a small chip under the skin to wirelessly narc on you.

The tiny biochip, developed by engineers from the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of San Diego, is able to monitor the level of alcohol or opiates in your body over a long-term period. According to industry website The Drinks Business, and reporting by Forbes, the chip marks a new development in the way we monitor and help patients with addictions, by allowing them to easily measure and reduce the level of substances like alcohol in their body.

The small chip, that measures one cubic millimetre (smaller than a hypodermic needle!), can be inserted into the body through an injection, and sits just under the skin in the fluid between the cells. Once the chip is inserted, it can wirelessly transmit information to a sensor, like a smartwatch, outside of the body.

The biosensor, which so far has only been tested on pigs skin, is coated in an enzyme that reacts when it comes in contact with alcohol. The enzyme then produces a byproduct, which can be measured and recorded.

“The ultimate goal of this work is to develop a routine, unobtrusive alcohol and drug monitoring device for patients in substance abuse treatment programs,” explained Drew Hall, the electrical engineering professor at the Jacobs School of Engineering, in a press release. “A tiny injectable sensor—that can be administered in a clinic without surgery—could make it easier for patients to follow a prescribed course of monitoring for extended periods of time.”

While the chip is only in its early prototype stages, it could replace blood tests in patients, making it a lot easier for those struggling with alcohol dependencies to manage their addiction.