Miniature COVID-19 home test created
One of the challenges in detecting COVID-19 is accurate and easy-to-use tests. Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have developed a new type of multiplex test, which is a test that combines multiple types of data using an inexpensive sensor. It can make it possible to diagnose COVID-19 at home. The test is designed to quickly analyze small volumes of saliva or blood without the need for a physician in less than 10 minutes.
The research team that invented the test operates in a Caltech laboratory under the direction of Wei Gao, Associate Professor, Department of Medical Engineering. Previously, Gao and his team developed wireless sensors to monitor a variety of conditions, including gout and stress levels, by detecting extremely low levels of certain compounds in blood, saliva, or sweat.
The sensors use a laser-etched plastic sheet that creates a three-dimensional structure of graphene with tiny pores that form a large surface area of the sensor. The large surface area makes the sensor sensitive enough to accurately detect compounds present in minimal amounts of blood or saliva. The graphene structures on the sensor are associated with antibodies that are sensitive to certain proteins, for example, on the surface of the COVID-19 virus.
Gao calls the SARS-CoV-2 sensor RapidPlex. It contains antibodies and proteins that detect the virus itself, antibodies that the body makes to fight the virus, and chemical markers of inflammation that indicate the severity of the infection. Gao says the sensor his team has developed is the only telemedicine platform he knows of that provides information on infection in three types of data using a single sensor.
Researchers used the device in the laboratory with only a small number of blood and saliva samples obtained for medical research purposes from people who tested positive or negative for the virus. Preliminary research suggests the sensor is highly accurate, but the researchers caution that testing on real patients is needed to determine practical sensor accuracy.