Screening tests have changed the lives of many people.From a Pregnancy test Clear your doubts until Blood sugar control Just press it lightly. The test fundamentally improves the quality of life of people with diabetes. “My grandmother started suffering from diabetes in her 40s, and I remember she was very distressed because the only things they allowed her to eat were vegetables and cooked potatoes,” the researcher recalled. Laura Lettuce (Seville, 1962) It took twenty years for a detector to enter the market from the laboratory.
In the coronavirus pandemic, one of the few tools that include covid-19 is to conduct screening tests (similar to tests for diabetes or pregnancy) to identify positive cases and cut the chain of transmission. “Test, test, test“, repeat The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Ethiopian accent Tedros Adhanom lectures in his English. precisely, Diagnostic technologyTogether with vaccines and therapies, international research has been focused on this global health crisis.
At the end of January, facing the threat of an impending pandemic, the European Union launched its first urgent appeal to fund scientific projects against covid-19.Laura Lechuga, head of the biosensor group at the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (ICN2), proposed the detection test Fast, portable, cheap and reliable“We divided the work into Jessica, María, Carmen and me. Between the four of us, we wrote 11 hours of projects every day in less than eight days. ,” he recalled.
He chose his proposal, called the CoNVat project. In the first conference call, Laura became the head of the only European consortium coordinated by Spain. Two years from now, our goal is to develop a device that can detect the new coronavirus and quantify the person’s viral load in less than half an hour. “In science, you try to go as fast as possible, but this is time-honored.” He defended his eagerness to prepare the technology.
At present, PCR is still the best test method for detecting coronavirus cases, but the technology is slow and expensive because it requires the use of specialized equipment and technicians to process samples and reagents in high global demand caused by the pandemic. “At the covid-19 conference, people have seen that if we put more bets on fast and portable technology, we will not be like what we are now, because everything is now concentrated in the laboratory.”
Lettuce is biological sensorA very complex test that can quickly and reliably detect biomarkers of diseases such as tuberculosis, sepsis and cancer. “I like making pots,” he said gracefully. He is now working to develop a nano-scale biosensor that contains an antibody that recognizes a protein that can cover SARS-CoV-2. If it is positive, the chip glows to confirm the infection.
Bat, the prototype of the project
The origin of the CoNVat project predates the new coronavirus, although the two must have the same origin: bats.Professor of the University of Barcelona (UB) Jody Serra CoboResearchers from the Institute of Biodiversity (IRBio) are committed to Epidemiological surveillance. This is a tedious job because you have to transport samples of bats and rodents (an animal repository of these viruses) to the laboratory to analyze and monitor these pathogens.
Jody kept telling me: “One day, these coronaviruses will scare us.” Laura recalled her first conversation with Serra-Cobo, and the researchers wanted to persuade her to design biosensors that avoid carrying samples. “At that time, who was interested in bats, virus surveillance and surveillance?” Lechuga explained the lack of calls for fundraising.
Months passed, and it was not until January 30 that the European Union quickly called for covid-19 within the framework of Horizon 2020, calling it: “I don’t know the coronavirus cluster, but I think it’s very suitable for what we want to do. “. UB, a research alliance between the University of Aix-Marseille (France) and the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (Italy) was born, coordinated by the Laura team of ICN2.
In the first year of the project, the researchers focused on Measured with patient samples Fine-tune the covid-19 to fine-tune the detector. In the second year, they will again use virus-carrying animal samples (such as the bat being studied by Serra-Cobo) for testing to develop wearable devices. In addition, they will also try to adapt the biosensor to serological analysis, and to detect and quantify antibodies in the blood.
Experts point out that “never have so many scientists working together or so many resources available to the scientific community”, but she is also critical of the large number of disseminated publications of questionable quality. During the pandemic: “There shouldn’t be a lot of trash posted. I have met colleagues who even posted on Twitter: “Look, I took these measurements with a biosensor”… Well, I have these measurements, I even Dare to teach them.
For her, the pandemic has only brought a positive side: End of business trip continuous. “I travel 40 to 60 times a year, and I have packed my luggage and can fly… and I have never set foot in the airport again.” On her next vacation, she packed her suitcases and brought them back to the village where her grandmother lived. .