Mitera was a project in partnership with Professor David Wong at UCLA. The proposal built on Prof Wong’s research and his prototype for a point-of-care diagnostic that used traces of microRNA found in saliva to diagnose a range of systemic cancers. Using quantum mechanical simulation we developed a prototype of a carbon nanotube-based sensor, intended to improve the performance of Prof Wong’s prototype, by being sensitive enough to detect concentrations as low as 1 actomole.
Saliva contains thousands of biomarkers of disease, in the form of microRNA. Wong’s lab has uncovered combinations of microRNA that when present in the saliva indicate the presence of a number of systemic diseases. So far he has identified markers of pancreatic, gastric, breast and lung cancer, among others. At his lab at UCLA he has developed a prototype for a point-of-care diagnostic device, using a polymer based sensor. Our improvement leveraged carbon nanotubes, functionalised with biological probes, sensitive enough to detect 1 actomole concentration of mRNA. We ran a full quantum mechanical simulation of the nanosensor, and developed a mechanism to make it reusable. The device would sit beside the bathroom sink, and once a week a light would appear indicating it was time to test. A lick of a finger, wiped across the nanosensor would provide sufficient saliva to run the test. The results would be sent to the cloud to a team of dedicated medical professionals, who would only be needed for review when a result was abnormal. The customer would simply see a green light, indicating all was well, or a red light, indicating they needed to seek professional advice.
We aimed to reduce the false positives normally seen with traditional one-shot screening programmes, by increasing the reliability through regular, weekly, at home testing.