Since chinstraps were found to provide effective protection against respiratory infections and are mandatory for use in public spaces due to the coronavirus pandemic, this piece of fabric has become a fashionable garment. But also, in an object of study by many researchers who, through sensors and biomarkers, seek to make them the first defense barrier for the body.
A team of scientists from MIT and Harvard University seeks to develop a face mask that produces a fluorescent signal when a person with a coronavirus breathes, coughs, or sneezes. Led by Jim Collins, a synthetic biology expert at MIT, he plans to adapt an existing technology that works with the Ebola and Zika viruses.
And while the project is in its ” first test stage, ” the results are encouraging. Over the past few weeks, scientists have examined the ability of the sensors to detect the new coronavirus in a small sample of saliva.
The team also experiments with design. The current debate is about whether to mount the sensors inside the cloth or develop an extra module that connects to any over-the-counter mask.
The sensors are capable of detecting the genome containing the virus’s RNA or through DNA detection. When this material is impregnated on the fabric, a small device absorbs the moisture from the material without damaging it and analyzes the genetic sequence of the virus.
His team has previously developed sensors that mutate from yellow to purple when a virus is present, so changing the color, through a chemical reaction, is a possibility that can be adapted to different options.
Doctors can even take advantage of this prototype to diagnose patients on the spot, without having to send samples to a laboratory. At a time when testing and delays have hampered the ability of many countries to control outbreaks, tools that quickly identify patients are critical.
A project by the University of Leicester and the British National Health Service (NHS) is progressing in the same direction, consisting of a simple chinstrap to which two 3D printed strips are adapted to trap exhaled microbes and determine the potential for contagion and level of spread at each stage.
“Measuring the amount of virus that is expelled will allow us to compare virus levels in different individuals. This could help us focus on control efforts to prevent the spread. The mask can be easily processed in any virus diagnostic laboratory. the successful development of this approach could be transformative, “said Mike Barer, professor of the clinical microbiology of Leicester.
This method has already been used successfully to detect tuberculosis patients. It is enough to use this chinstrap for several hours. “The coronavirus is transmitted from the mouth, throat, and breathing system of infected people. This new approach is exciting because it could help us determine if a person is infectious or not, even before the virus symptoms appear, “says Barer.
Currently, the highest level of protection is offered by antimicrobial masks that, through filter layers and copper filaments bonded into the mask tissue, attract and trap bacteria and viruses. These copper ions penetrate the virus’s protein armor and destroy its ability to replicate, reducing the number of infectious particles that can pass through the mask’s pores.
The advantage offered by these high-tech masks, compared to those of the N95 type, is that they withstand up to 30 washes, without weakening the protection. The downside is that they are excessively expensive. Its value is around 6 thousand pesos.
Instead of reinventing the mask with copper wires, Professor Yonggang Huang of Northwestern University is looking for an affordable way to incorporate chemical chinstraps found in sanitation products that inactivate a wide range of viruses.
Last month, Huang became the first materials scientist to receive a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a chemical supplement for traditional masks that can destroy COVID-19 on the first contact.
Laser-induced graphene is the goal of researchers at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, who are applying the material to disposable surgical masks to make them self-sterilizing and water-repellent, so virus-laden drops would be rejected. of the cloth. Furthermore, this graphene-coated mask could be sterilized by subjecting it to a temperature of 80 degrees.
While mechanical engineering professor Eyal Zussman of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology led a team that developed a 3D-printed fiber sticker that is coated with antiseptics that trap particles and neutralize viruses in the drops that fall on the mask. This label attaches to a traditional mask to provide additional protection.