Harvard, MIT researchers create COVID-19 diagnosing mask

Researchers from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both based in Cambridge, Mass., have created small diagnostic biosensors that can be inserted into face masks and can diagnose COVID-19 within 90 minutes, The Mercury News reported June 29. 

The insertable biosensors detect the virus from a wearer's breath, producing easy to read results similar to those of an at-home pregnancy test. If the coronavirus is present, the system changes the pattern of lines in the readout strip. 

To activate the test, the wearer pushes a button on the mask to release a small amount of water into the system, which activates the test.

Study findings published June 28 in Nature Biotechnology show the test can diagnose COVID-19 at accuracy levels similar to those of standard diagnostic tests, Mercury News reports. 

"We have essentially shrunk an entire diagnostic laboratory down into a small, synthetic biology-based sensor that works with any face mask, and combines the high accuracy of [polymerase chain reaction] tests with the speed and low cost of antigen tests," said Peter Ngyuyen, PhD, study co-author and research scientist at Harvard's Wyss Institute. 

For years, the researchers have been working on wearable freeze-dried cell-free technology — the mechanism behind the test. In the early stages, researchers were hoping to integrate the technology into diagnostics to address the Zika virus outbreak. 

The researchers are now hoping to mass produce the diagnostic and are seeking manufacturing partners.


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