Coronavirus Diagnosis: Optical Method Reduces Time

Researchers have created a method that combines optics and magnetic particles that can test 100 samples of patients who may be infected with the virus and cut the diagnostic time to around 15 minutes after realizing that current methods of coronavirus diagnosis take about an hour.

By joining the virus’ RNA to a fluorescent molecule that glows when exposed to a laser beam, the technology allows sensitive detection of virus-specific RNA sequences. The signal that RNA emits at very low amounts is so weak that current technology cannot pick it up. This laser beam can be likened to the size of a fist, and at low concentrations of virus RNA, there may only be a few fluorescent molecules within that fist. In contrast, the saliva of a corona sufferer fills an entire room. They can stick to the fluorescent molecules by dispersing magnetic particles in the fluid.

They developed this technology with the dual objectives of improving diagnosis accuracy and simplification. Two tiny electromagnets, magnets driven by an electric current, are required for this advancement. The signal intensity was increased by several orders of magnitude thanks to the researchers’ skillful use of a strong magnetic field to draw thousands of fluorescent molecules from the entire solution and aggregate them inside the laser beam.

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