UK and China have collaborated on a new project to develop an easy, low-cost sensor for simultaneous diagnosis of hepatitis A, B and C. It will use an advanced 2D material with high electrical conductivity called graphene.
Funded by Newton Fund UK, the new diagnostic technology project is led by BIOVICI and involves UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL), Swansea University, China’s University of Chongqing, and CTN.
Aimed to address hepatitis in China, the new project is also working towards tackling issues with the existing standard blood test methods used to diagnose the disease.
Blood tests are considered to be invasive, expensive, time-consuming and require medical personnel.
Graphene is suitable for various sensor applications, with electronic and mechanical characteristics, surface sensitivity, and selectivity.
Researchers are working on developing technology that uses three graphene sensors to detect three types of the disease, contrary to current electrochemical biosensors, which can only identify one kind.
Integrated into a single test, each sensor will be designed to detect the antibodies associated with a particular strain of hepatitis.
Based on chemically modified graphene, the new technology is expected to provide a real-time monitoring point of care (POC) diagnostic to identify several salivary or serum-based hepatitis biomarkers.
Initially, a prototype will be developed, which would then be tested for reliability, stability and sensitivity before its commercialisation.
It is estimated that the new test could cost less than £1 and will enable bulk testing of more than the current 300 million food, agriculture and education workforces in China.
NPL Advanced Materials principle research scientist Dr Olga Kazakova said: “In addition to hepatitis, it could be used in other similar tests, including allergen sensors, pollutant identification and other life sciences applications.
“It is imperative for us to understand the exact characteristics of the material to be able to assess how it can be manufactured and used in these different applications.”
During the two-year project, CTN and Chongqing University will handle the new device production and manufacturing, while Swansea University will perform chemical characterisation. BIOVICI will take care of the packaging and commercialisation of the device.