For movie characters, viruses can come from anywhere including the depths of space. If you are one of the unfortunate residents of the movie virusYou may find yourself at the mercy of a smart virus transmitted through your electronic devices. In the real world, fortunately that doesn’t happen – and hopefully never will – but that doesn’t mean we can’t make human pathogens and technology interact in beneficial ways.
Enrique Valera of the University of Illinois Department of Bioengineering and colleagues have developed a device that can stick to a smartphone to detect and analyze diseases in real time. the device mentioned in the magazine analyst.
In the current study, the team used their device to detect Zika virus, a disease It is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is a distinct opportunity to improve Zika detection because it is largely asymptomatic in most of the population, but can cause significant birth defects if the patient is pregnant during infection. Furthermore, bloodborne diseases are of particular interest in terms of simplifying detection because conventional tests require significant sample preparation in advance.
“We are developing microfluidic devices to detect blood-borne pathogens, among other things because one of the big challenges of this type of device is working directly with whole blood. Working directly with whole blood is difficult due to the large number of cells in the blood. Our device avoids the need for any pre-treatment of bloodValera said to SviiWire.
Existing processes for detecting pathogens are often complex and require specialized knowledge or equipment to prepare. The researchers wanted to develop something so easy to use and self-sufficient that anyone could self-test for a number of diseases.
Their device works in two parts, the sample cartridge and the detector. The cartridge uses chemical decomposition to release viral RNA From the blood, in this case from the Zika virus. The RNA is then amplified using a process known as loop-mediated isothermal amplification, also known as LAMP. Importantly, there is no pre-treatment or purification required, which makes this system useful on existing methods. Once amplified and exposed to a buffer, the viral RNA will fluoresce and become visible. This is where the smartphone comes in.
“In the second part of the device (module B) we heat the solution to amplify the RNA particles from the virus and we can visually see the amplification event. We have a smartphone based reader that can read and find the sparkle event in real time. We correspond to an increase in fluorescence with the presence of the virusValera said.
During the tests, the device was able to confirm the presence of Zika in a sample in less than 22 minutes, making the entire process from sample to detection nearly half an hour. For now, the device has a dedicated battery, but the team is working on simplifying the design. In the future, they envision it using a smartphone battery for power. They also have other improvements in the works. In addition to expanding the types of pathogens their devices can detect, it also serves to make them detect multiple pathogens at the same time.
“Bloodborne viruses can have many similarities in characteristics and transmission. There is a possibility that the same person will be infected with more than one virus. The goal is to be able to test the same blood sample for multiple viruses to find one, but also rule out the others.Valera said.
Of course, expanding the device’s usefulness will require innovations in the way it detects pathogens. For now, it looks for RNA in droplets of blood, but testing for other pathogens may require the ability to look inside saliva and other testable body fluids. Each of these have different challenges and detection mechanisms. The result is that the reagent can be reused. Unlike traditional single-use test kits, a smartphone detector can use disposable detection cartridges while allowing the detector itself to remain uncontaminated.
Valera envisions a future in which their devices are not only in clinical settings such as doctors’ offices and hospitals, but can be carried into the home, giving consumers access to real-time diagnoses. Who would have thought that you can tell what makes you sick between browsing the web and playing games Angry birds?
It’s something of a fan
Join SYFY Insider for access to videos, exclusive interviews, breaking news, sweepstakes, and more!
Register for free