The future of virus detection

As medical diagnostic technology accelerates, there is a growing need for plating solutions that can produce high purity surfaces.
Photo credit: Uyemura

To say that virus detection and tracing has become more advanced and more important than at any time in history is an understatement. The COVID pandemic has highlighted the importance of rapid detection methods to slow the spread of the virus. The combined forces of the medical community and the manufacturing industry have seized the opportunity out of necessity and in doing so have found new ways to innovate. Progress continues to be made in advancing medical diagnostics.

Unsurprisingly, many graduates have seen increases in medical sector programs during the pandemic. Nor is it surprising that many see the medical device industry as a new opportunity for innovation and business growth. Uyemura (Ontario, CA), a leader in specialty surface technologies with a long history serving the general metal finishing industry, has an eye on manufacturing trends and is excited about new opportunities in the medical sector.

Historically, the company’s experience in this area has been providing finishing processes for printed circuit boards and other electronic components used in the manufacture of medical devices. Uyemura also has a number of hypoallergenic and antimicrobial coatings which have benefited the market. In addition, the company provides metallic coatings, such as platinum, for instruments used for blood analysis.

As trends in the medical world emerge, Uyemura is increasingly involved in how his expertise can enable new applications. One of the areas where Uyemura technology has been successful is in medical diagnostics. The company is specifically involved in the use of spectrometry to detect the presence of pathogens.

Simply put, spectrometry is a field of study that measures and interprets frequencies resulting from an interaction between electromagnetic radiation and matter. It is used as a tool in physics, chemistry and astronomy to determine the composition and molecular structure of matter. An important application is in the field of medical imaging – tissue analysis, for example.

Richard DePoto, business development manager for Uyemura, is interested in how the technology is used to identify viruses and other pathogens. DePoto points to virus “readers” that allow a saliva sample to be analyzed in a device that uses spectrometry to prove or disprove the presence of the suspected pathogen.

“A saliva sample is applied to a high-purity surface and placed in a reader which bombards the sample with radiation or ions, making the pathogen visible and identifiable,” DePoto explains. “Eventually, compact playback units may be available for widespread home use. In fact, I think it will happen quite soon.

A need for high purity surfaces

According to DePoto, this spectrometry-based diagnostic technology contributes to the increase in demand for noble metal surfaces such as gold, platinum and palladium and the quality requirements for these surfaces in the medical sector are increasing. more stringent.

“Medical diagnostic technology is advancing rapidly, driven by growing need and aggressive funding,” DePoto says. “One area of ​​the market that has evolved over time is what I would call ‘high purity surfaces’.”

DePoto says that over the past 2-3 years, medical device manufacturers have sought contributions and partnerships to develop these types of surface conditions. “These are surfaces where none of the submetals — copper, nickel, or anything similar — are detectable,” DePoto says. “They want a coating that is thick enough, with low enough porosity and a tight grain structure to provide a very pristine surface.”

DePoto explains that many metals commonly used for metal finishing can interfere with spectrometry-based pathogen detection. Nickel, for example, may show some of the same peaks and overlaps with some of the pathogen identifiers. Therefore, ensuring that nickel is undetectable with these surfaces is a requirement.

DePoto points out that this technology has evolved with the advent of wearable devices. Uyemura has years of experience in the field of wearable surfaces. “We particularly focus on surfaces that have a very high resistance to corrosion and sweat,” he says. “Salt in the human body creates a galvanic battery corrosion problem. We have developed rugged surfaces to withstand sweat tests.

Uyemura is actively collaborating with medical diagnostic companies that are developing this technology and finding new ways to deliver the high purity surfaces required. The company has built its business by supplying precious metals for a wide range of specialist applications; DePoto describes Uyemura as a recognized supplier of specialty chemicals, rather than a supplier of commodity chemicals.

“All of our products are more than niche – specialty alloys designed for more specific applications,” says DePoto. “In addition, based on our corporate organization and structure, we have the agility to develop innovative solutions. That’s why we’re well suited to the direction medicine is taking.

Quick results

Unfortunately, COVID is now part of our daily lives. Reliable and rapid tests are an urgent need that remains unmet. Anyone who has taken a COVID test at home has had a moment where they question its validity, not to mention that schools require a laboratory PCR test.

As we work and continue to hope for a return to normal, reliable home testing could have a huge impact. DePoto thinks the widespread adoption of compact spectrometry test units is a good bet.

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