An article, published on April 16th 2021 in South China Morning Post, suggests that the Pentagon team has developed a COVID-19-detecting chip that could be implanted under the skin. The claim turns out to be mostly false.
Profusa Implantable Biosensors
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is a research and development agency of the United States Department of Defense that develops emerging technologies for military use. The SCMP article states that the agency has “unveiled a chip that it said can detect signs of the new coronavirus in human bodies within minutes when it is implanted under the skin”. After we got in touch with DARPA, it turned out that the chip that the article is referring to is actually the Profusa Implantable Biosensor – a device, that could provide real-time data on how concentrations of different chemicals change in response to illness, injury, or activity in the daily life of the wearer.
Moreover, the agency emphasizes that the Profusa hydrogel is inert, does not have any electrical components, and is of similar material to a contact lens or corneal implant and for these reasons, it cannot be identified as a “chip”. Our correspondence with DARPA via email revealed also that the biosensor is not implanted under the skin, as stated in the article, but worn outside of the skin. These two erroneous assumptions are misleading and can be associated with the vastly disapproved human microchipping.
By 2021, there are about 6000 Swedish who have been chipped. EUfactcheck concluded that this is true in a previous fact check. Many employees use them to get into their office buildings, as a gym pass, to buy food from vending machines and even instead of using train tickets. Ben Libberton, a science communicator based in Stockholm, warns that by having a microchip implanted in your hand, you also give your data away: “The real issue is data handling, which will be an issue later on with how data is stored… if the data is not secure, someone can get your information and once it’s out there, it’s hard to get back.“ However, the question that arises from this new technology would be – is it possible to further develop the microchips to detect and hold information regarding COVID-19 or any future mutations?
Does the implant detect COVID-19?
The SCMP publication is citing Colonel Matthew Hepburn, who has been a programme manager at DARPA for six years (2013-2018) and has been managing the Profusa Implantable Biosensors project. Interestingly enough, Colonel Matthew Hepburn does not use the words “coronavirus”, “COVID-19” or “SARS-CoV-2” in any of the cited statements nor has he used them in the CBS News show 60 Minutes that is said to be the source of information.
In addition, the answer that we received from DARPA points out that Profusa first received DARPA funding though a small grant in 2011, obviously well before the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2. However, the agency says that such a technology could conceivably help to detect the early onset of illness. Therefore, it is possible for the implant to detect COVID-19, but that was not the main purpose of the agency, while developing the technology, since the new coronavirus was not even existing at the early stages of development.
Taking into account all the data, the statement that the chip, developed by DARPA, can detect signs of COVID-19, when it is implanted under the skin, is mostly false. That claim was made by the CBS News show 60 minutes, then cited in the South China Morning Post. DARPA finds most of the former’s statements inaccurate.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE © Carla Stoyanova, Elina Petrova, Mihail Davarsky, Stefan Stoev, Tsanko Pantev by Sofia University “St. Kl. Ohridski”, BG
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