According to Dr. Amos Danielli, of the Alexander Kofkin Faculty of Engineering at Bar-Ilan University, 15 minutes may be all it takes to diagnose cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), thanks to a new diagnostic technology.
While existing methods of diagnosing COVID-19 take around one hour, Danielli’s technology reduces testing time to around 15 minutes through a combination of optics and magnetic particles. That allows the diagnostic tool to rapidly test 100 saliva samples of potentially infected patients. The technology’s usefulness was previously on display for the Zika virus and is currently in use at the Israel Ministry of Health’s central virology laboratory at Tel Hashomer Hospital.
“This development relies on the use of two small electromagnets, which are magnets powered by an electric current,” Danielli said. “By properly positioning them, we were able to create a strong magnetic field and collect all the thousands of fluorescent molecules from the entire solution and aggregate them inside the laser beam, thereby multiplying the signal strength by several orders of magnitude. But that’s not all. Instead of pumping the solution, we alternately operate the electromagnets, once on the left and once on the right, moving the molecules from side to side, in and out of the laser beam. As they pass through the laser beam, they become illuminated. When they exit the light beam, they are no longer illuminated. This flickering allows us, without any additional procedures, to accurately determine whether a person has been exposed to coronavirus.”
The technology is meant to detect virus-specific RNA sequences. Danielli’s hopes for it are to simplify the diagnostic process and to increase accuracy at the same time. The platform is highly sensitive but, according to Danielli, still easy to operate. This makes it potentially invaluable for instances where resources are limited.
Already, medical device company MagBiosense has seen the potential of Danielli’s technology and run with it. It is currently creating a small, coffee machine-sized device based on the technology. At the same time, Danielli is searching for investors to accelerate the development of a coronavirus kit for introduction to hospitals.
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