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Optomagnetic Technology Could Reduce Coronavirus Diagnostic Time

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RAMAT GAN, Israel, March 16, 2020 — A technology developed at Bar-Ilan University, based on a combination of optics and magnetic particles, can rapidly test samples of patients potentially infected with the coronavirus. Current methods for diagnosing coronavirus take approximately one hour. Using the new technology, saliva tests can be analyzed within 15 minutes.  

The lab of researcher Amos Danielli of the Alexander Kofkin Faculty of Engineering attached the virus’ RNA to a fluorescent molecule that emits light when illuminated by a laser beam to develop a technology for the sensitive detection of virus-specific RNA sequences. At very low concentrations of RNA, the signal emitted is so low that existing devices cannot detect it.

“If we think of the saliva of a corona patient filling an entire room, then this laser beam can be compared to the size of a fist, and at low concentrations of virus RNA, there might be only two to three fluorescent molecules within that fist,” Danielli said. Adding magnetic particles to the solution enables the RNA to adhere to the fluorescent molecules. This, in turn, enables a greater concentration of fluorescent molecules and a much more accurate measurement.

Amos Danielli, Ph.D., Kofkin Faculty of Engineering. Courtesy of Bar-Ilan University.

Amos Danielli, Ph.D., Kofkin Faculty of Engineering. Courtesy of Bar-Ilan University.

“This development relies on the use of two small electromagnets, which are magnets powered by an electric current. By properly positioning them, we were able to create a strong magnetic field and collect all the thousands of fluorescent molecules from the entire solution and aggregate them inside the laser beam, thereby multiplying the signal strength by several orders of magnitude,” Danielli said.

Instead of pumping the solution, the researchers alternately operate the electromagnets, once on the left and once on the right, to move the molecules from side to side, in and out of the laser beam. As the molecules pass through the laser beam they become illuminated, and when they exit the beam they are no longer illuminated. “This flickering allows us, without any additional procedures, to accurately determine whether a person has been exposed to coronavirus,” Danielli said.

The researchers’ goal in developing the technology was to simplify the diagnostic process and make it more accurate. The high sensitivity of the platform and its ease of operation facilitate its use in point-of-care applications where resources are limited. The technology has been shown to reduce the diagnostic time of Zika virus and is currently being used in the Ministry of Health’s central virology laboratory at Tel Hashomer Hospital in Ramat Gan, Israel. 

MagBiosense, a medical device company, is developing a device about the size of a home coffee machine that will be based on Danielli’s technology. Currently, Danielli is searching for an investor to accelerate the development of the coronavirus kit, so it can rapidly be introduced in hospitals.
Mar 2020
The emission of light or other electromagnetic radiation of longer wavelengths by a substance as a result of the absorption of some other radiation of shorter wavelengths, provided the emission continues only as long as the stimulus producing it is maintained. In other words, fluorescence is the luminescence that persists for less than about 10-8 s after excitation.
Research & TechnologyeducationEuropeBar-Ilan Universitylaserslight sourcesopticsTest & MeasurementBiophotonicsmedicalcoronavirusCOVID-19coronavirus testingRNA testingAmos Daniellifluorescencefluorescent moleculesoptomagnetic

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