California Institute of Technology researchers have developed a new type of multiplex test (a test that combines multiple types of data) with an inexpensive sensor that can allow home diagnosis of COVID-19 infection by quickly analyzing small volumes of saliva or blood without the intervention of a healthcare professional in less than 10 minutes. … Scientists reported their development in the journal Matter.
The study was conducted in the laboratory of Wei Gao, an assistant professor in the Department of Medical Engineering. Previously, Gao and his team developed wireless sensors that can monitor conditions such as gout, as well as stress levels, using technology to detect extremely low levels of certain values in blood, saliva, or sweat.
Gao’s sensors are made of graphene, a carbon sheet-like shape. The laser-etched plastic sheet creates a three-dimensional structure of graphene with tiny pores. These pores create a large surface area for the sensor, making it sensitive enough to detect compounds that are only present in very small amounts with high accuracy. In this sensor, graphene structures are associated with antibodies, molecules of the immune system that are sensitive to certain proteins, for example, on the surface of the coronavirus.
So far, the device has only been tested in a laboratory with a small number of blood and saliva samples obtained for medical research purposes from people who test positive or negative for COVID-19. While preliminary results show that the sensor is very accurate, a larger test needs to be done with real patients rather than laboratory samples, scientists warn. This is necessary to finally determine its accuracy. If the tests are successful, the sensor will be very useful. When connected to auxiliary electronics, it can even transmit data to the user’s mobile phone wirelessly via Bluetooth.