Thursday, August 11, 2022

This Sensor Might Just Automate COVID-19 Detection


The SARS-CoV-2 RapidPlex is a promising piece of technology that might just be what we need to bring the pandemic to heel.

Being a new strain of the virus, COVID-19 is posing major challenges to health experts worldwide. Curbing its spread is proving to be a major undertaking as we don’t know much about it yet. As a result, experts are grappling to control its transmission and outbreaks.

Times may be tough but not all hope is lost just yet. In fact, one very promising development is from the California Institute of Technology. A team of medical engineering researchers led by Dr. Wei Gao is developing a home-use sensor that can detect coronavirus infection without the need for a real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RRT-PCR) test.

Previously, Dr. Gao and his team created wireless sensors that are designed to monitor gout and stress levels using certain compounds that are found in bodily fluids like sweat, blood, or saliva. They have developed wearable devices that can detect gout-causing compounds and stress.

Called the SARS-CoV-2 RapidPlex, the COVID-19 sensor is designed as a home-use multiplexed test or a test that uses a combination of different data in order to provide results. It uses a small sampling of saliva or blood in order to detect and diagnose a coronavirus infection without the need for the help of a medical professional. It’s capable of providing results within ten minutes.

With a very simple device, detecting the virus is possible. This can prove to be very handy for the general population as it can help find infected individuals even when they don’t show any symptoms. Medical intervention can then be implemented as soon as possible since the testing process does not take long.

This Sensor Might Just Automate COVID-19 Detection - SARS-CoV-2 RapidPlex

How It Works

There are quite a few fascinating things about this multiplexed coronavirus test. For starters, the design is not entirely original as it’s pretty much the same device as the stress sensor. Made of a sheet-like form of carbon known as graphene, it’s designed to have tiny pores that create large surface areas for the sensor. This component is sensitive to compounds that are in very small amounts of promising accuracy.

To make it capable of detecting the coronavirus, the graphene structures are combined with antibodies or the immune system molecules that are sensitive to specific proteins. As the coronavirus has four structural proteins, it can then be detected by the sensor with relative ease.

In the versions made for stress detection, the graphene is coupled with the antibodies related to cortisol while the ones used for gout have uric acid. In this COVID-19 device, the sensor is meant to detect the presence of the virus and the antibodies that the body naturally creates to fight off the infection. It can also identify chemical markers of inflammation which can determine the severity of the infection.

The capacity of this sensor is unique as no other means of evaluation is available yet to determine and provide such information with just a single test. This makes the SARS-CoV-2 RapidPlex possibly the most efficient test in the market today.

A Low-Cost and Rapid Solution to Coronavirus Detection

As of the moment, the SARS-CoV-2 RapidPlex is the only telemedicine platform that can promise as much information and accuracy in detecting and determining the severity of a patient’s COVID-19 infection. It’s also the only home-use device that can provide such details, making it a very unique tool.

Since this device can also provide results within minutes, it might just prove to be one of the most reliable and useful testing tools to become available in the market. While result turnarounds have significantly sped up over the past few months for COVID-19 tests, they still take a while to finish.

It’s not that they should be rushed as the accuracy can be compromised but time is of the essence when it comes to this viral disease. The faster a patient gets diagnosed, the sooner intervention can take place. This can then help curb the spread of the disease quicker.

Another plus is its price tag. Most COVID-19 tests are still very expensive, especially since they’re in high demand. Dr. Gao’s invention, on the other hand, is more affordable so it might promise better accessibility to test in the future.

Further Tests are Required

The only downside? The initial testing for the RapidPlex only involved a small number of blood samples. So while it showed high levels of accuracy, it still requires clinical trials that involve real-world patients.

LA STARTUPS is a digital lifestyle publication that covers the culture of startups and technology companies in Los Angeles. It is the go-to site for people who want to keep up with what matters in Los Angeles’ tech and startups from those who know the city best.


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