Currently, the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) is the gold standard test for diagnosing COVID-19. But that involves going to a clinic and taking a rather invasive nasal swab. This inconvenience has inspired scientists to create new and innovative ways to make COVID-19 testing easier. Just like this new face mask.
Recently, researchers from the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have come up with a way to embed biological sensors into wearable items. This biosensor can detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus as accurately as the PCR test in only 90 minutes.
According to the study published in Nature Biotechnology, the biosensor technology involves the use of “freeze-dried, cell-free synthetic circuits” that contain cell organelles that can detect DNA and RNA. This circuit lyses the virus’ outer coating and makes copies of its RNA Spike gene. If the gene is present, a CRISPR enzyme system called Sherlock detects its presence and displays a positive indicator.
According to co-first author Peter Nguyen, Ph.D., a Research Scientist at the Wyss Institute:
“Other groups have created wearables that can sense biomolecules, but those techniques have all required putting living cells into the wearable itself, as if the user were wearing a tiny aquarium. If that aquarium ever broke, then the engineered bugs could leak out onto the wearer, and nobody likes that idea.”
A new way to detect infection
According to the scientists, this is their way to augment the supply of COVID-19 tests for the globe. Doctors fit patients with a face mask during isolation when they are admitted with a suspected diagnosis of the disease. However, If they use masks equipped with the biosensor, the diagnosis process can be more efficient.
While the researchers first came up with this concept to combat the Zika virus, the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the switch. Moreover, they now look forward to using the technology with other wearables to protect professionals of different occupations.
“This technology could be incorporated into lab coats for scientists working with hazardous materials or pathogens, scrubs for doctors and nurses, or the uniforms of first responders and military personnel who could be exposed to dangerous pathogens or toxins, such as nerve gas.”Co-author Nina Donghia, Staff Scientist at the Wyss Institute.
Source: Technology Networks