In the midst of the tough battle against the coronavirus, a group of researchers from the Wyss Institute of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed a portable biosensor that when integrating it into a mask manages to detect the presence of Covid in the breath of the person in just 90 minutes.
Peter nguyen, one of the creators and scientist at the Wyss Institute, said: “We have reduced an entire diagnostic laboratory to a small synthetic sensor based on biology.”
And he detailed that it works with any face mask and “combines the high precision of PCR testing with the speed and low cost of antigen testing“.
How the device works
Nguyen and his team reveal that the device is based on a lyophilized free cell technology ‘wearables’ or wearable (wFDCF), pioneered by Jim Collins, co-author of the research, according to the study published in the magazine Nature Biotechnology.
The technique, they expand, consists of “extracting and lyophilizing (dehydrating) the molecular machinery that cells use to read DNA and produce RNA and proteins.” In this state, the biological material is stable for long periods of time and to activate it just add water.
In this way, by pressing the button of the biosensor, the lyophilized components are hydrated and occur three biological reactions that produce a signal -by means of colorimetric changes- in response to a target molecule, in this case, SARS-CoV-2 RNA.
Thus, if positive, a simple line will appear in the reading part of the device, similar to what happens with a home pregnancy test.
High precision rates
From the Wyss Institute they point out that the wFDCF mask “is the first SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid test that achieves high precision rates comparable to current standard RT-PCR tests while works fully at room temperature“.
And they explain that it also does so by “eliminating the need to heat or cool instruments and allowing the fast sample detection of patients outside the laboratories, “he emphasizes.
With unlimited potential
The researchers have been working on the biosensor for three years. Before, in fact, they had applied it to Zika virus diagnostic tools in 2015.
The biosensors in clothing alert through an app. Photo: Harvard University Wyss Institute
In 2020, amid the pandemic and quarantines, they decided to design a wearable technology within a “flexible and discreet” device to detect pathogens and toxins and alert the user, diffuses RT.
Your goal is to find a partner interested in manufacturing and mass production of masks for the detection of Covid-19 and “other biological and environmental hazards”
The scientists also note in the publication that the device allows integrate a network of fiber optic cables to detect the fluorescent light generated in biological reactions.
The technology could incorporate uniforms and gowns of scientists, doctors and nurses who work with hazardous materials or pathogens. Photo: Reuters
The objective in this case would be the possibility of sending a signal to a mobile app that would allow a user to “control their exposure to a wide range of substances.”
Nina donghia, a co-author of the research, stated that, for example, “it could be incorporated into lab coats for scientists working with hazardous or pathogenic materials, uniforms for doctors and nurses, or uniforms of military and first aid personnel.