BUSINESS

Korean researchers develop sensor to detect drug intake from single drop of sweat

By Sohn Ji-young
  • Published : Sept 29, 2017 - 13:11
  • Updated : Sept 29, 2017 - 16:13
South Korean researchers have developed a portable wireless sensor which is able to detect a person’s intake of amphetamine-based drugs like Adderall, Ecstasy and Crystal Meth using just a drop of sweat, saliva or urine.

The sensor was co-developed by Korea’s Institute for Basic Science and Pohang University of Science and Technology. Their work was published Friday in Chem, a sister journal to the physical sciences journal Cell.

Right now, drug testing involves using complex diagnostics devices that are often bulky, expensive and slow. There are cheaper, on-site drug testing devices available, but they are unable to detect drug intake under 1 ppm.

A portable wireless sensor that can detect a person’s intake of amphetamine-based drugs like Adderall, Ecstasy and Crystal Meth using body fluids (Korea’s Institute for Basic Science and Pohang University of Science and Technology)

The Korean research team claims its newly-developed portable sensor — sized at 1.5 x 3.5 centimeters — is 10,000 times as accurate as existing portable drug screening devices.

For now, the sensor has been designed as a smart bracelet prototype that syncs with a smartphone. If commercialized, the team expects the technology will make drug screening as easy as testing for alcohol intake with a breathalyzer.

The IBS-POSTECH team built the sensor by coating an organic semiconductor with a chemical — Cucurbit[7]uril hydrate — that selectively bonds with amphetamine molecules.

When tested, the sensor’s sensitivity stood at 0.1 ppt for water and 0.1 ppb for urine, which is around 10,000 times as sensitive as today’s existing portable drug screening sensors.

“We expect our research to go beyond the confines of academia to shift the paradigm of drug screening procedures in the real world,” said Kim Ki-moon, the head of the IBS research team.

Looking ahead, the Korean research team plans to continue developing this sensor to screen for not only amphetamine-type drugs but also lethal toxins and endocrine disrupting chemicals.

By Sohn Ji-young (jys@heraldcorp.com)