by Kathleen Nguyen

Pediatric Nanomedicine or Robotics

According to the CDC guidelines regarding the proper storage and preparation of breast milk, hospitals can store freshly expressed or pumped milk at room temperature (25°C or below) for up to four hours, in the refrigerator for up to four days, in the freezer for about six months is best; up to 12 months is acceptable. Although freezing keeps food safe almost indefinitely, following recommended storage times for the best quality is crucial. Children usually start drinking refrigerated drinks like milk at 10 to 12 months, but babies prefer lukewarm milk. Warming can occur in various methods, but the preferred method of warming suggests warming under “running water.” However, concerns about the warm water bath include contamination of the feeding with Gram-negative bacteria. And because there is no tracking system for breast milk, temperature abuse occurs when breast milk expires and nurses are unaware. Because breast milk takes time to warm (adhering to safe practices and procedures) and because some children may require large volumes of milk, nurses can spend their mornings in the breast milk room checking to ensure adequate-warmed milk.

ChromoCap is a cap that attaches to a reusable bottle and contains a colorimetric sensor that detects expired (breast) milk without touching the milk directly. The sensor comprises chemically coated nanoparticles based on silicon dioxide (SiO2) nanoparticles and Schiff’s reagent to detect volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced by the growth of spoilage bacteria in pasteurized whole milk. Solid-phase microextraction (SPME) and gas chromatography can detect volatile organic compounds formed from microbial growth. When the sensor detects VOC gases, it changes color. The sensor changes color depending on the shelf life of the milk: less expired milk will naturally develop a light magenta hue, whereas rotten milk will develop a bluer and darker shade. “If it’s that dark blue color, [the milk]’s life is over,” Shyam S. Sablani (a professor at Washington State University) said. Food packaging could incorporate this colorimetric sensor to predict the remaining shelf life benefiting consumers, manufacturers, retailers, and, less commonly, healthcare workers at hospitals to reduce food loss.
ChromoCap accomplishes the vision of integrating the colorimetric sensor into the cap of a milk bottle. The new technology is helpful in interdisciplinary fields such as the food and healthcare industries. ChromoCap can succeed within the healthcare system by improving food safety and extending shelf life.

Nurses work long hours with little sleep, battle alarm fatigue, and wait for the time-consuming baby’s bottle to heat, even when the milk has expired. ChromoCap makes their jobs easier by having an awareness of their storage. Determining when breast milk has expired is difficult, if not impossible, without opening the baby’s bottle up and taking a whiff! Nurses (and other healthcare workers) can use the ChromoCap to detect if breast milk has gone bad simply by looking at the colorimeter sensor attached to the cap. The new sensor technology tackles an unmet pediatric clinical need first-hand and shows promise to improve food safety and shelf life.