CHEMICAL SCIENCE

Virus around? The warning mask is coming


Wireless bioelectronic masks for real-time testing. Image source: Fang Yin et al

Wireless biological electronic warning mask is coming Image source: Fang Yin and so on

Fang Yin, a professor at Tongji University School of Medicine in Shanghai, and his collaborators have invented a mask that can detect common airborne respiratory viruses, including influenza and coronaviruses, through droplets or aerosols. The researchers described this high-sensitivity mask in a study published Sept. 19 in the journal Matter: If there is a target pathogen in the surrounding air, it can alert the wearer via a mobile device within 10 minutes.

“Previous studies have shown that wearing masks can reduce the risk of transmission and infection of the disease. Therefore, we wanted to create a mask that could detect the presence of a virus in the air and alert the wearer. Fang Yin, the paper’s corresponding author, said.

Respiratory pathogens that induce COVID-19 and influenza A(H1N1) can be transmitted by small droplets and aerosols released when infected people speak, cough, and sneeze. These virus-containing molecules, especially tiny aerosols, can be suspended in the air for long periods of time.

Fang and collaborators tested the new mask in a closed room, where they sprayed viral surface proteins containing trace amounts of liquid and aerosol on the mask. Fang Yin said the sensor can react to 0.3 microliters of liquid containing viral proteins, which is about 1/70 to 1/560 of a sneeze that produces droplets, much smaller than a cough or talk.

The team designed a small sensor with a nucleic acid aptamer, a synthetic molecule that can identify the pathogen’s unique proteins, such as antibodies. In the proof-of-concept experiment, the team modified the multichannel sensor with 3 types of nucleic acid aptamers, which can simultaneously identify the surface proteins of the new coronavirus as well as the H5N1 and H1N1 influenza viruses.

Once the nucleic acid aptamer binds to the target protein in the air, the ion-gated transistor amplifies the signal and alerts the wearer via the phone. The ion-gated transistor is a new type of high-sensitivity device, so this mask can detect trace amounts of pathogens in the air within 10 minutes.

Fang Yin said: “Our masks are in poorly ventilated spaces, and the detection effect is very obvious, such as elevators or closed rooms, where the risk of infection is high. In the future, he added, if a new respiratory virus emerges, they could easily update the sensor design to detect new pathogens.

Next, the team hopes to further improve the sensitivity of the sensor by optimizing the polymer and transistor designs to reduce the detection time. They are also working on wearable devices for a variety of health conditions, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.

“Currently, doctors rely heavily on their experience in diagnosing and treating diseases. But as wearables can collect richer data, disease diagnosis and treatment can become more precise. Fang Yin said. (Source: China Science Daily, Feng Lifei)

Related Paper Information:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.matt.2022.08.020



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