Humankind’s quest to triumph over the catastrophe coronavirus, which claimed millions of lives and is still taking lives, has made another breakthrough invention. It is the researchers from MIT and Harvard who have developed masks to detect Covid-19. With the help of cutting-edge biosensor technology, the researchers have achieved this landmark feat in the battle to eliminate the Covid-19. The mask is capable of detecting the SARS-CoV-2 within 90 minutes of the wearer’s breath. It is another major scientific breakthrough after the Covid-19 vaccination development through mRNA.
The cutting-edge biosensor has been under development for many years. It can now detect any virus and toxins that can get itself incorporated comfortably into clothing fabrics. Based on new technology, the biosensor was termed wFDCF (wearable freeze-dried cell-free). Furthermore, the technology is much different from the earlier, in-use technology that required the incorporation of living cells. The biosensor dubbed wFDCF has a system that can extract and freeze-dry the cellular machinery necessary to detect organic molecules.
In the past, to experimentally diagnose the Ebola and Zika virus, researchers had used the same wFDCF technology. However, once the Covid-19 pandemic took center stage, researchers immediately pivoted to working on the technology to help combat the coronavirus spreading. A co-first author of the research team, Luis Soenksen, had explained the move as, “We wanted to contribute to the global effort to fight the virus, and we came up with the idea of integrating wFDCF into face masks to detect SARS-CoV-2.” The whole development and research work behind creating the breakthrough mask started in May 2020 under strict quarantine and social distancing rules.
The researchers were also to incorporate the biosensor comfortably into an N95 mask. As an ideal mask suggested by doctors and scientists, the N95 mask gives us maximum protection against the coronavirus. Inside the face mask, once you press the small button, it leads to the release of several biosensors alongside a small reservoir of water.
The water reservoir works to hydrate the frozen, dried molecules present in the biosensor. Here the wearer’s breath will be analyzed by the biosensor that, in return, will reflect in a small strip of paper registered in the wearer mask to show the outcome as Covid-19 positive or negative within 90 minutes. The entire usage of the wFDCF technology has been hailed as the most advanced and superior use of the technology so far.
Previously, other researchers attempted to develop wearables that could detect biomolecules but couldn’t make it past the testing stages. Peter Nguyen, a co-first author on the new study, has said regarding the same as, “those techniques have all required living cells into the wearable itself as if the user were wearing a tiny aquarium.” He further explained that it wasn’t ideal as there is a chance the aquarium can break, and bugs can enter the mask and contact the wearer. He ideally said, “nobody likes that idea.”
While the benefit of the mask enabling a person to detect Covid-19 under 90 minutes is huge, there is another benefit that comes from this mask. The mask has allowed the removable electronic components needed in the manufacturing process. Thus, making the manufacturing process much cheaper in comparison to before. It is due to the simple paper strip registration method similar to the pregnancy test. Furthermore, the continuous feedback cycle from the cutting-edge biosensor technology will enable the person to monitor the environmental exposure. The developers are expecting that the Covid-19 detecting face mask will go under mass commercial manufacture soon. Also, there's still work going to ensure whether cells can be trained to fight viruses.
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A lone wolf by definition, a writer by heart, and a lost star with ambitions to light up the dark both inside and around me, sometimes by immersing myself into books or video games or traveling with a backpack to an uncertain destination believing that life is all about the choices we make and we don't.