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New Face Masks Embedded With Sensors Can Detect Covid-19 Within Minutes Using Free Cell Sensor System


New sensor technology has been developed which can detect pathogens and Covid -19 infection. This new sensor has been installed in a mask that can detect the presence of Covid-19 in your breath within 90 minutes. This new technology can be used on other clothing materials as well to detect different pathogens and other threats.

This new mask that can detect whether you have Covid or not has been developed by a group of engineers at MIT and Harvard. It is a prototype mask which means it is still in the testing stage. If the mask is approved and gets patented it can be produced in masses for others to use.

These masks have tiny sensors which are disposable and can also be embedded into other face masks to detect a variety of pathogens and treats. A freeze-dried cellular technology has been used to develop these masks. This technology earlier was developed to fit in paper diagnostics and was used to detect Ebola and Zika. Ebola was a virus similar to Covid-19 and caused severe bleeding, organ failure and can lead to death whereas Zika was caused due to mosquito bites and could lead to paralysis.

Now the researchers confirmed that these sensors could not be used in masks but could also be installed in other clothing such as lab coats. It would ease the job for doctors and researchers and also give them knowledge about the pathogen or other varieties of diseases.

The researchers also tested these freeze-dried sensors by installing a wide range of synthetic biology sensors and saw that these sensors could detect bacterial as well as viral nucleic acids and toxic chemicals like nerve toxins. 

James Collins the Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering and Science in MIT’s Institute of Medical Engineering and Sciences (IMES) and Department of Biological Engineering and senior author of the study said that these microbiology sensors could be beneficial for the next generation. They could use these wearable biology sensors for first responders, health care personnel, and military services.

Now, how do these face masks work?

These face masks get activated when the users are ready to take the test. After wearing the mask they can take the test and wait for 90 minutes to access the results. The results will be shown on the inside only to protect the interest of the users.

These wearable mask sensors are based on a study done by Collins. He started experimenting with it a few years ago. He discovered in 2014 that proteins and nucleic acids always created a synthetic gene network. He found that a synthetic gene network reacted to a specific target molecule and these molecules were so tiny that they could be easily embedded into a paper which could be used for paper diagnostics to detect Ebola and Zika.

Collins in 2017 started working with Feng Zhang who is a biochemist. In his lab, Collins developed a cell-free sensor system that was seen to be highly sensitive to nucleic acid. He named this system SHERLOCK and had more CRISPR enzymes. These molecules require water to get activated and thus can detect the RNA or DNA. They produce a signal when detected like a change in color.

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