Khalifa University team designs portable PCR tests

A compact COVID-19 testing kit, no larger than the regular smartphone, has been created by a team of researchers from Khalifa University. The new kit is both compact and can only produce the findings in 45 minutes.

The primary investigator for the project is Dr. Anas Alazzam. He is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering. Also a member of the Machine on Chip Centre, SOCC. Alongside Dr. Habiba AlSafar. She is the Director of the Center for Biotechnology at Khalifa University. Also an Associate Professor of Genetics and Molecular Biology, as co-principal investigator. Postdoctoral researchers Dr. Waqas Waheed and Dr. Sueda Saylan. Along with Research Associate Hussein Kannout, are part of the research team.

The New PCR test by Khalifa University

While PCR testing is usually extremely reliable and the gold standard for virus identification, it can be difficult to use. To provide a fast, sensitive, and precise detection of the COVID-19 virus, the researchers at KU used the Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification process, LAMP. It is quicker and uses primers that target two separate regions of the viral RNA than the traditional PCR process. The majority of PCR techniques focus on thermal cycling in order to start the RNA replication process, where the reactants are subjected to repetitive heating and cooling cycles. Although laboratory PCR experiments need a programmable thermocycler, a basic heat block may be used to conduct LAMP, making it much more usable for portable research.

As complex as this is, everything inside the system is complete and requires limited experience to function. There is no need for any specialized instruments for the KU testing kit, as the kit conducts COVID-19 identification directly from the swab of a patient. The outcome is demonstrated by a basic color change: pink for negative, yellow for positive.

This research kit can detect active infections in 45 minutes at present in the clinical validation stage. Ensuring it can be used in accelerated testing while being cost-effective at the same time.

The kits remain useful until the coronavirus pandemic is over, since they can be used for any virus detection primer. To keep it testable, the LAMP process would also reproduce the RNA and then the sample will be checked, for example, with a reagent searching for the influenza virus.

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