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Chip for biomolecule detection may help in COVID-19 testing

A Purdue University patented method for single biomolecule detection that overcomes limitations of current technologies may help in the fight against COVID-19. Credit: Purdue University

A patented method for single biomolecule detection that overcomes limitations of current technologies may help in the fight against COVID-19.

Purdue University innovators created a method that uses a special sensor similar to a computer chip. The application-specific integrated circuit chip is designed for the early detection of a number of pathogens and viruses.

“We want to find partners to move this technology to the public as soon as we can to help in COVID-19 testing,” said Saeed Mohammadi, a Purdue professor of electrical and computer engineering. “We know it can be an effective, easy and inexpensive method for detecting viruses, potentially the one linked to the current pandemic.”

The Purdue technique involves machine learning to train the system to detect certain features associated with particular diseases and viruses. Then, when a sample is run through the system, it can detect those features and confirm the presence of particular viruses and diseases. Simulations have shown this technique may be effective in detecting COVID-19.

This method uses a metal-oxide semiconductor sensor with embedded, fluidic nanochannels. As a moves through the nanochannel, a high frequency current is measured that contains information about the biomolecule, such as the type of nucleotides in the case of DNA/RNA, which can be used to classify the molecule.

Mohammadi said, “This method does not have the problems associated with other nanopore techniques because it does not require the difficult drilling of extremely small nanopores, can detect four nucleotides at a time, and is not significantly affected by the rotation or position of the biomolecule in the nanochannel.”

Mohammadi said the technology is simple enough that a manufacturer could use it to

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How to Talk About End-of-Life Decisions

When talking about treatment plans with patients in the emergency department, as physicians we lay out our concerns, the pros and cons of different options, and why we recommend one over the other for the particular patient. We do not ask patients which antibiotic combination they would prefer.

Why is it different when we talk about resuscitation or end-of-life wishes? Why do we suddenly ask patients “what they want” with no context or recommendation? We sound like waiters: “Do you want shocks with that CPR?” “What about intubation or pressors?”   

Discussing end-of-life options is a skill, like intubation or placing a central line, one that requires just as much preparation and practice. These options must be discussed in the context of the patient’s illness and his personal goals. Resuscitation should be discussed as an entity – not parsed out as individual selections. The only exception to this is in patients with a primary respiratory illness. In these cases, such as COPD patients, intubation may be discussed separately.

Physicians must think about this discussion as a fact-finding mission to uncover what the patient and family understand about three things: What is going on with your body? What do you understand about what the doctors are telling you?  What is your understanding of resuscitation? We listen, and when they are finished, we educate, give a prognosis and outline our recommendations.

Our recommendations are based on two facts: Whether what brought them to the emergency department is reversible or not. If it is not clear, we can offer “time-limited trials” of aggressive interventions including intubation. The family should understand that if the patient’s condition does not improve over the next several days, then we would withdraw or stop the aggressive treatments. And second, we consider the patient’s trajectory of illness and his