Aug 19, 2019 | Updated: 12:01 PM EDT

Researcher Developed a Microfluidic Device to Better Detect Ebola

May 03, 2019 03:59 PM EDT

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Researcher Developed a Microfluidic Device to Better Detect Ebola
(Photo : Image by bhossfeld from Pixabay)

The Rochester Institute of Technology's faculty-researcher has developed a prototype microdevice with bio-sensors that is capable of detecting the deadly Ebola virus. With this type of device, individuals infected can be treated earlier, and the early detection process can potentially decrease the spread of infections.

A faculty-researcher in RIT's Kate Gleason College of Engineering, Ke Du, developed a microfluidic device that utilizes CRISPR gene-editing technology to monitor and detect the nucleic acid markers that indicate Ebola virus. He said that the virus is highly contagious and there is limited treatment once someone has been diagnosed. There are several prominent strains of Ebola, and his research team has focused on the EBOV strain which was a high mortality rate.

Du, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, said that if someone travels from one infected community to another, they can quickly spread the epidemic. That is why before any symptoms of Ebola, including cough or fever present, people can take a blood test before being allowed to travel. Du leads a multidisciplinary team of engineers and biochemists developing a rapid point of care system and biochemistry array for in-field pathogen diagnosis.

With the early results, the team has discovered that the Ebola RNA in test environments can be detected within five minutes by combining automated sample processing, fluorescence sensing and a unique CRISPR-Cas13a assay originated from a bacterial adaptive immune system.

The microfluidic device is an automated and small chip with a highly sensitive fluorescence sensing unit embedded to the machine. The process for the physician is to take patient samples and add them to the tool where Ebola RNA can be seen by activating the CRISPR mechanism. Du is also developing a tool that could detect multiple virus strains from Ebola to influenza and Zika, for instance.

The research was published in ACS Sensors, and it features an international and multidisciplinary team assessing the use of CRISPR technology, gene editing technology, to improve virus detection. The team members are from the University of California, Berkeley, Tsinghua Berkeley Shenzhen Institute, China, Dong-A University, Korea, Texas Biomedical Research Institute, and Boston University.

In his explanation, he claimed that for this work, they are trying to develop a low-cost device that is easy to use mainly for medical personnel working in developing countries or areas where there are outbreaks. He explained that they would be able to bring hundreds of these devices with them for testing, not just one virus or bacteria at one time but many different kinds.

For the past 40 years, researchers have tried to develop an effective Ebola vaccine. According to the Center for Disease Control, early detection remains an essential strategy for controlling outbreaks, the most recent in the Congo where more than 1,000 people have died.

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