KIST’s technology detects Covid-19 variants using THz waves

Korean researchers have developed technology to detect variants of Covid-19 using terahertz waves (THz).

The Korean Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) said the doctor on Tuesday. So Mina and Son Hyun Sook of the Sensor System Research Center used non-THz-labeled metamaterials to quickly and accurately distinguish Covid-19 virus variants.

Detection and discrimination of SARS-CoV-2 units and analysis of amino acids using THz metamaterials (Credit right: KIST)

THz metamaterials function in THz electromagnetic waves. At a certain frequency their transmission or reflection is amplified.

Biomarker detection technology uses a highly sensitive center of unlabeled THz metamaterial that detects a protein unit that plays a key role in virus penetration without altering the properties of the virus.

This technology can make up for the shortcomings of conventional PCR tests and rapid antigen tests. Although PCR tests are very accurate, it takes more than four hours to obtain a result. Express tests for antigens give results within 20 minutes, but their accuracy is low.

The research team said that THz electromagnetic waves have a very wide frequency band and can be used for spectroscopy sensitive to the natural fluctuations of biomolecules, to interpret unique information and differences in biological samples such as DNA and amino acids.

Because the probability of THz interacting with biosamples is low, and there is no technology to amplify signals, it is difficult to detect samples directly in vivo.

The research team used metamaterials that amplify signals in a specific band of electromagnetic waves to overcome this shortcoming to develop a platform for diagnosing biomolecules. It had to identify THz signals even in extremely small numbers.

After indicating amino acids with excellent absorption in the THz range, the research team created THz metamaterials to amplify the signal. They then scattered the samples over the surface of the metamaterials and analyzed the constant optical value of the samples to observe the change in the THz signal.

The results showed that the research team was able to conclude on the characteristics and amount of the sample, such as the amount of detection and charge, polarity and hydrophobicity index of the monomer, within minutes.

In addition, they were able to identify virus variants with similar structures by detecting changes in amino acid units.

“It will be possible to use THz analysis to develop diagnostic technology to detect infectious disease and track virus variants,” Dr. Seo said.

A study entitled “Detection and Discrimination of Peptides Derived from SARS-CoV-2 Thorn Protein Using THz Metamaterials” was published in Biosensors and Bioelectronics.

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