Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University have designed a new mask that can diagnose whether the user is infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in 90 minutes. The mask design, described in the journal Nature Biotechnology, incorporates small disposable sensors that can be attached to other face masks and could also be adapted to detect other viruses.
The researchers showed that the sensors could be incorporated not only into face masks, but also into clothing such as lab coats, which could offer a new way to monitor the exposure of healthcare workers to a variety of agents, pathogens or other threats. . “We have shown that we can freeze-dry a wide range of synthetic biology sensors to detect viral or bacterial nucleic acids, as well as toxic chemicals, including nerve toxins,” said James Collins, a professor at MIT in the United States.
The sensors in the face mask are designed to be activated by the user when ready to test, and the results are only displayed inside the mask, for the user’s privacy. When the researchers finished their work on the wearable sensors in early 2020, Covid-19 had started to spread around the world, so they quickly decided to try using their technology to create a diagnosis of the virus.
Freeze-dried sensors in a mask
To produce their diagnostic face mask, the researchers integrated lyophilized sensors into a paper mask. These lyophilized components are surrounded by silicone elastomer, the researchers said. The sensors are placed inside the mask so that they can detect virus particles in the breath of the person wearing the mask. The mask also includes a small water reservoir that is released with the push of a button when the user is ready to test. This hydrates the lyophilized components of the sensor, which analyzes the accumulated respiratory droplets inside the mask and produces a result in 90 minutes.
As fast as antigen testing
“This test is as sensitive as the reference PCR tests, which are very sensitive, but it is as fast as the antigen tests that are used for rapid analysis of Covid-19,” said Peter Nguyen, a researcher at the University. Harvard in the United States. The prototypes have sensors inside the mask to detect a wearer’s condition, as well as sensors placed on the outside of clothing to detect environmental exposure. Researchers can also swap sensors for other pathogens, such as influenza, Ebola, and Zika, or sensors they have developed to detect organophosphate nerve agents.
Engineers have designed a mask that can diagnose the user with Covid-19 in about 90 minutes. The masks are embedded with small disposable sensors that could also be incorporated into clothing or adapted to detect other viruses. https://t.co/KQnRh6in5h pic.twitter.com/UuAahUeTr4
– Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (@MIT) June 29, 2021 View comments