Bioengineer Jim Collins have been developing sensors that could detect the Ebola virus since 2014.
Currently, Collins is adjusting the technology to detect the novel coronavirus
Bioengineer Jim Collins and his team are currently designing a face mask that can produce a fluorescent signal when it detects the novel coronavirus through a person’s breathing, sneezing and coughing. Collins said that this technology can also help doctors instantly diagnose their patients without needing to send swab or blood samples to a laboratory.
Collins also added this would address some flaws on how airports, workplaces, and other public places as they try to screen people to avoid the spread of the virus.
“As we open up our transit system, you could envision it being used in airports as we go through security, as wait to get on a plane. You or I could use it on the way to and from work. Hospitals could use if for patients as they come in or wait in the waiting room as a pre-screen of who’s infected,” Collins told Business Insider.
Many countries around the world are now ramping up efforts to conduct coronavirus mass testings among symptomatic and asymptomatic citizens. However, finding an effective and accurate rapid test kit has been a real challenge so far. As the reports tell us, test kits sometimes either give false negative or false positive results of the virus. Both results can cause more harm than good, according to experts..
Collins has been working on series of inventions since 2014, and his top priority is detecting viruses or pandemics in real time. In the same year, his team of bioengineers in MIT laboratory began creating sensors that could detect the presence of the Ebola Virus. MIT and Harvard scientists recognized their work and published their research in 2016.
Since the 2016 publication, Collins and his team have been redesigning the technology to detect the presence of mosquito-borne virus called Zika. In 2018, the virus-identifying technology has also been used to detect more viruses and diseases such as SARs, influenza, measles, West Nile, and hepatitis C, among others.
Collins confirmed that they are now readjusting the technology to the coronavirus through a face mask.
The bioengineering team is still in the “very early stages” of the invention but the results have been “promising” so far, according to Collins.
“Right now, the lab is debating whether to embed sensors on the inside of a mask or develop a module that can be attached to any over-the-counter mask,” Collins said.
Collins said that he and his team are aiming to do a demonstration in the next few weeks. Once the virus-identifying technology works, they will conduct trials among patients who have the coronavirus.
They initially tested the technology on paper with the aim to develop an inexpensive paper-based diagnostic. He confirmed that the technology also works on plastic and cloth.
In order to activate the sensor, it needs two vital things: the moisture from respiratory particles(such as saliva) and the virus’ genetic sequence.