Crop Biotech Update

Facemask Detects COVID-19 Virus in 90 Minutes

July 7, 2021

Wearable meets COVID-19 detection. With the breakthrough of researchers at Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a button-activated mask can detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus in a patient's breath within 90 minutes at levels of accuracy similar to PCR tests. The breakthrough is published in Nature Biotechnology.

The technology was first used in 2015 to address the Zika virus outbreak. They developed biosensors that can detect RNA molecules that were derived from pathogens and matched them with a fluorescent indicator protein, then integrated the genetic mechanism into paper.

In the last three years, the team designed a wearable version, which they refer to as wearable-freeze-dried cell-free (wFDCF) technology. The freeze-dried elements are shelf-stable and can be activated by adding water.

"We have essentially shrunk an entire diagnostic laboratory down into a small, synthetic biology-based sensor that works with any face mask, and combines the high accuracy of PCR tests with the speed and low cost of antigen tests," said Dr. Peter Nguyen, lead author of the study from Wyss Institute. "In addition to face masks, our programmable biosensors can be integrated into other garments to provide on-the-go detection of dangerous substances including viruses, bacteria, toxins, and chemical agents."

Read more from Wyss Institute.

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