Skip to main content

New glowing dye safely allows doctors to see beneath your skin

Fluorescent dye Stanford safe for humans
Alexander Antaris/Stanford
In the field of medicine, glowing dye injected beneath a patient’s skin can help doctors detect all kinds of dangerous conditions. These dyes can be used to diagnose early-stage cancers and visualize delicate internal systems like the eye. But until now, those dyes have been too harmful for safe use in humans, and they weren’t excreted from the body quickly enough to justify the risks. A team of Stanford researchers has finally developed a fluorescent dye that is completely safe for internal use, and is even more accurate than the unsafe dyes of the past.

After the fluorescent dye is inserted into the bloodstream, doctors can use high-tech imaging devices to view below the surface of a patient’s skin. The dye will glow under spectral imaging technology to identify anything from a burgeoning tumor to damaged blood vessels. Until now, glowing internal dyes have been made mostly from carbon nanotubes or quantum dots. Because these particles remained in the liver and the spleen for days or even months, patients were vulnerable to more internal damage than the diagnostics were worth.

The Stanford team’s new dye solution contains molecular fluorescent particles that emit light within the near-infrared range of light. Technically this range is known as NIR-II, or the second near-infrared window. This specific light range is crucial to the efficacy of the dye because it means the particles produce longer wavelengths that can be viewed through many layers of tissue and skin without scattering. Stanford’s new dye enables imaging so accurate that real-time video capture is now a possibility.

“The difficulty is how to make a dye that is both fluorescent in the infrared and water soluble,” said Alex Antaris, a graduate student on the Stanford team. The most important achievement in this new fluorescent dye is its soluble quality, which allows it to be excreted from the body within 24 hours. That tacks on a whole new level of safety to the initial benefit of vastly more accurate imaging below the skin. The fluorescent dye could spark a major step forward in medical imaging, from basic diagnostics to imaging-guided surgery.

Chloe Olewitz
Chloe is a writer from New York with a passion for technology, travel, and playing devil's advocate. You can find out more…
Why AI will never rule the world
image depicting AI, with neurons branching out from humanoid head

Call it the Skynet hypothesis, Artificial General Intelligence, or the advent of the Singularity -- for years, AI experts and non-experts alike have fretted (and, for a small group, celebrated) the idea that artificial intelligence may one day become smarter than humans.

According to the theory, advances in AI -- specifically of the machine learning type that's able to take on new information and rewrite its code accordingly -- will eventually catch up with the wetware of the biological brain. In this interpretation of events, every AI advance from Jeopardy-winning IBM machines to the massive AI language model GPT-3 is taking humanity one step closer to an existential threat. We're literally building our soon-to-be-sentient successors.

Read more
The best hurricane trackers for Android and iOS in 2022
Truck caught in gale force winds.

Hurricane season strikes fear into the hearts of those who live in its direct path, as well as distanced loved ones who worry for their safety. If you've ever sat up all night in a state of panic for a family member caught home alone in the middle of a destructive storm, dependent only on intermittent live TV reports for updates, a hurricane tracker app is a must-have tool. There are plenty of hurricane trackers that can help you prepare for these perilous events, monitor their progress while underway, and assist in recovery. We've gathered the best apps for following storms, predicting storm paths, and delivering on-the-ground advice for shelter and emergency services. Most are free to download and are ad-supported. Premium versions remove ads and add additional features.

You may lose power during a storm, so consider purchasing a portable power source,  just in case. We have a few handy suggestions for some of the best portable generators and power stations available. 

Read more
Don’t buy the Meta Quest Pro for gaming. It’s a metaverse headset first
Meta Quest Pro enables 3D modeling in mixed reality.

Last week’s Meta Connect started off promising on the gaming front. Viewers got release dates for Iron Man VR, an upcoming Quest game that was previously a PS VR exclusive, as well as Among Us VR. Meta, which owns Facebook, also announced that it was acquiring three major VR game studios -- Armature Studio, Camouflaj Team, and Twisted Pixel -- although we don’t know what they’re working on just yet.

Unfortunately, that’s where the Meta Connect's gaming section mostly ended. Besides tiny glimpses and a look into fitness, video games were not the show's focus. Instead, CEO Mark Zuckerberg wanted to focus on what seemed to be his company’s real vision of VR's future, which involves a lot of legs and a lot of work with the Quest Pro, a mixed reality headset that'll cost a whopping $1,500.

Read more