New face mask prototype can detect Covid-19 infection
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Diagnosis of a COVID-19 infection is one of the primary steps towards curbing the spread. A sensor technology developed by engineers at MIT and Harvard can help detect and diagnose the presence of viruses such as the COVID-19 virus in the environment in the form of wearable synthetic and the wearer in the form of masks.

As reported by MIT News the senior author of the study said, “We’ve demonstrated that we can freeze-dry a broad range of synthetic biology sensors to detect viral or bacterial nucleic acids, as well as toxic chemicals, including nerve toxins. We envision that this platform could enable next-generation wearable biosensors for first responders, health care personnel, and military personnel.”

~ Masks diagnosing infection and detecting virus presence

Previously, the research team created freeze-dried cellular machinery for paper diagnostics of viruses such as Zika and Ebola. A new way to monitor the exposure of healthcare workers and people to a range of viruses or other infections was proposed by suggesting the integration of the sensors in lab coats and face masks. The stability span of the cell-free circuit components can be up to months until the rehydration requirement because they are freeze-dried.

Upon interaction with the RNA or DNA sequence or the target molecule when triggered by water, generation of a signal such as a colour change takes place. The activation of the sensors in the face mask will be upon the wearer's will and for user privacy, the result of diagnosis will be displayed inside the mask.

Peter Nguyen, a research scientist at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the lead author of the study said, “This gives you an information feedback cycle that can monitor your environmental exposure and alert you and others about the exposure and where it happened." He added, "This test is as sensitive as the gold standard, highly sensitive PCR tests, but it’s as fast as the antigen tests that are used for quick analysis of Covid-19."

After filing for a patent, the researchers expressed their hope of getting aid from companies to facilitate further development of the sensors and talked about the possibility of bringing out a face mask. “I think the face mask is probably the most advanced and the closest to a product. We have already had a lot of interest from outside groups that would like to take the prototype efforts we have and advance them to an approved, marketed product.”, Collins added.

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