During the COVID-19 pandemic, the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test method has been widely used as its accuracy is much higher than rapid antigen testing. However, most PCR test machines are extremely bulky and expensive. In most cases, samples are taken from COVID-19 screening centers to the nearest testing lab because of the limited number of PCR test machines. Patients are mostly required to wait for many hours until test results are notified.
A research team led by Jeong Ki-hun, a bio and brain engineering professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST), has developed a reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) system capable of identifying COVID-19 within 10 minutes with a 95 percent of accuracy. The research team collaborated with the National NanoFab Center, a nanotechnology institute affiliated with KAIST.
The system consists of a photothermal nanomaterial-based ultrafast plasmonic thermocycler, a disposable plastic-on-metal (PoM) cartridge, and an ultrathin microlens array fluorescence (MAF) microscope. Jeong said the new technology can be used in areas such as multi-use facilities and local hospitals where tests are required to check people for infectious diseases.
"The ultrafast and compact PCR system can decentralize point-of-care molecular diagnostic testing in primary care and developing countries," the research team said in a research paper published on March 27 on the website of ACS Nano, a monthly peer-reviewed journal.
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