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Flexible Polyester-Paper Biosensing Platform Performs Cheap, Rapid Diagnostics

An in vitro diagnostic (IVD) biosensing platform that integrates cellulose paper and flexible polyester film could be used remotely to detect and determine treatment for a range of bacterial conditions without the need for expensive infrastructure or skilled personnel. The device can be used to identify HIV, E. coli, Staphylococcus aureas and other bacteria from a single drop of blood. A compatible app that detects bacteria and disease in the blood using images from a smartphone also has been developed. The technology has the potential to solve pressing healthcare problems in developed as well as developing countries, say the researchers.

In an article published in Nature Scientific Reports, titled "Paper and Flexible Substrates as Materials for Biosensing Platforms to Detect Multiple Biotargets," researchers from Florida Atlantic University (FAU; Boca Raton, FL) and their collaborators explain how the integrated cellulose and flexible polyester film technology can address the limitations of current paper and flexible material–based platforms in diagnostic applications.

Using paper and flexible substrates as materials for biosensors, the researchers have identified a rapid and cost-effective way to diagnose diseases and monitor treatment in point-of-care settings. They have been able to show how their new platforms are uniquely able to isolate and detect multiple biotargets selectively, sensitively and repeatedly from diverse biological media using antibodies.

"There is a dire need for robust, portable, disposable and inexpensive biosensing platforms for clinical care, especially in developing countries with limited resources," said Waseem Asghar, PhD, assistant professor of electrical engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science at FAU, one of the authors of the paper.

Existing paper and flexible material-based platforms use colorimetric, fluorometric and electrochemical approaches that require complex labeling steps, are costly to fabricate and require expensive equipment and infrastructure.

Asghar notes that because the materials in their platform are easy to make, easy to use, and can easily and safely be disposed of by burning, they can be used to develop affordable tools with applications in drug development, food safety, environmental monitoring, veterinary medicine and infectious disease diagnostics in developing countries.

"Our paper microchip technologies can potentially have a significant impact on infectious-disease management in low- and middle-income countries where there is limited laboratory infrastructure," added co-first author Hadi Shafiee, PhD, instructor in medicine at the Division of Biomedical Engineering at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School.

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