Scientists at the University of California, San Diego, have developed a way to use a machine to generate an exact map of the global vaccine supply, in a way that is far more accurate than relying on previous generations of scanners.
The new system uses a laser-based microscope to map a patient’s blood cells, tissue and tissue debris.
The scanner, a machine that has been in development since the late 1970s, is designed to be easily and cheaply scaled up to a global scale.
Using a laser scanner to map the global supply of vaccines.
A key goal of the system is to map where and when vaccines are needed, to provide timely access to the vaccine at a particular time.
It is also intended to provide an “immediate response” to outbreaks, to make sure people get the vaccine.
Scientists have been trying to develop and test a laser scanning system for years, but the cost and complexity of the technology have been a barrier.
The new system is built on a laser microscope, which can be made cheaply.
Dr Gero Schmidhuber, the lead author of the paper, said: “The laser scanner is not only able to create a map of a patient, it can also identify the tissue debris that is in the blood of a subject.”
Dr Schmidhauer said the technology had been developed in the laboratory to “take advantage of the high power of the laser scanner”.
“In order to make it useful, we had to build a machine with a lot of components,” he said.
“But the laser scanning machine is a very simple machine, which has very few parts.”
It’s very easy to get parts from the manufacturer, it has very low power and is quite easy to assemble.
“We wanted to build it for a real world, which means we had lots of time to get the design right and to scale it up to be efficient.”
The new technology was designed to take advantage of advances in digital imaging technology and could make a real difference in the way vaccines are distributed, said Dr Schmid-huber.
The team, which is now working on an application for the device, is now using the laser microscope to make an even more accurate map of global vaccine supplies.
“The laser scanning microscope has a very good resolution,” Dr Schmal said.
“Its resolution can be up to 10x better than any other laser scanner currently available.”
Researchers hope to use the system to help them monitor vaccine production, distribution and storage in real time, and to determine which vaccines are most important.
In the future, the team plans to make the laser scan more accurate as it improves.
It could also help in diagnosing people who are at risk for catching diseases like measles or who are in areas where the virus is spreading.
“The machine can also be used to measure the distribution of vaccines across countries,” Dr Sebastian Perna, an expert in the medical imaging field at the Medical University of Vienna, told the BBC.
“It’s important to know that if we know that a given vaccine is distributed in a certain area, we can identify the source of the virus.”
The research was published in the journal PLOS ONE.