Detecting COVID-19 by Fluorescence in situ Hybridization to a Rapid Point-of-Care System

Presenter: Kelsey Dupont

Research Category: Engineering and Technology
College: College of Engineering
Major(s): Bioengineering
Graduation Date: 2021
Additional Authors: Sarah Dunbar, Bridget Bergstrom, Alana Persing, Brenna Singer

The_COVID-19_pandemic is a rapidly evolving global health_issue that may have implications for years to come._As of March 5th, WHO has reported_a cumulative_115.2 million cases_and_2.56 million deaths_worldwide [1]._Diagnostic testing is critical for reducing the spread, but accessibility is limited by several factors. The Ògold standardÓ for COVID-19 detection is RT-PCR, which requires expensive equipment, trained personnel, and long wait times for results._Point-of-care (POC)_diagnostic_tests using rapid RT-PCR_or antigen detection have attempted to address these limitations but are constrained by low sensitivity_and_accuracy [2][3]._ 

Turbo fluorescence_in situ_hybridization (TurboFISH) is a molecular technique that can tag RNA of interest with oligonucleotide_sequences and_may be more accurate than_current solutions. To perform this assay in a POC setting, we have designed an automated TurboFISH developer to accurately dispense, incubate, and aspirate needed reagents onto patient samples. The developer is coupled to a detection system, which_involves a sensitive high-speed scanner_to detect_FISH-tagged_SARS-CoV-2._This whole process takes only 10 minutes. 

Thus far, we have demonstrated proof of concept for the developer through fluid mechanics, time studies, and detailed CAD modeling, and for the detection system through mathematical analysis and prototyping. Future work will focus on_optimizing and_validating the detection_system using_fluorescent_nanoparticles to model SARS-CoV-2. With further research and development, this device could be accessible to hospitals, pharmacies, and low resource communities everywhere, helping to combat the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.