CORONAVIRUS/Nanotechnology could be used to screen for COVID-19: professor

06/30/2020 12:36 PM
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Photo courtesy of National Cheng Kung University
Photo courtesy of National Cheng Kung University

Taipei, June 30 (CNA) A form of nanotechnology developed by a professor at National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) could be used to screen patients for COVID-19 in a matter of minutes, the university said in a statement Monday.

Professor Liao Jiunn-der's (廖峻德) use of "nanocavities," which he describes as nanoscale traps that resemble upside-down pyramids, can be used to catch even a single virus, he said.

To screen patients, samples are obtained from their upper respiratory tract, purified, and placed on a testing slide that has the "nanocavities."

A laser is then used to detect if a virus has been trapped inside a cavity, which virus it is, and whether it is active, Liao said.

Liao began developing the nanocavity technology in 2009, and it has proven effective in screening for seven kinds of viruses, including the SARS coronavirus and H1N1, according to the statement.

His team obtained a patent for the technology in 2012, the NCKU statement said.

A variation of the technology developed by Liao's team, which uses the same kind of laser to detect whether viruses are present on a silicon testing slide, could also be applied to COVID-19 screening.

Liao's team has yet to test the technology with the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), but it will work with the university's hospital and College of Medicine to conduct tests over the next six months to determine how well the system works.

Should the technology pan out, the team's goal is to set up testing stations at ports and airports to facilitate COVID-19 testing, and create a mobile testing station that can provide services when needed, NCKU said.

The project is one of seven COVID-19 related studies that is being supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology's Department of Engineering and Technologies, according to NCKU.

(By Yang Sz-ruei and Chiang Yi-ching)

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