May 25, 2024
Researchers Develop Breakthrough Test for Rapid Fentanyl Detection

Researchers Develop Breakthrough Test for Rapid Fentanyl Detection

A team of researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas has successfully developed a handheld electrochemical sensor capable of quickly and accurately detecting fentanyl in urine samples. This groundbreaking technology has the potential to revolutionize drug testing by providing immediate results without the need for expensive and time-consuming lab analysis. The findings of the study were published in the Applied Materials & Interfaces journal on January 10th.

According to Dr. Shalini Prasad, the head of the Bioengineering Department at the university, the prototype device has the ability to detect trace amounts of fentanyl with an impressive 98% accuracy rate. The current iteration of the sensor focuses on detecting the drug through urinalysis, but the team is working towards developing a similar test for saliva samples. Additionally, the device can be used to test substances for fentanyl by mixing a sample with water and applying the liquid onto the sensor.

Prasad explains that there is a growing need for a portable, user-friendly device that can accurately and rapidly detect fentanyl while also sharing results in real-time on internet-connected devices. The team’s research demonstrates the feasibility of such a device, providing an essential tool in the fight against fentanyl overdoses.

Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid that is 50 times stronger than heroin and a staggering 100 times more potent than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Illicitly produced fentanyl is often mixed with other drugs, and even a minuscule amount of 2 milligrams, equivalent to 10 to 15 grains of table salt, can be lethal. Overdoses from synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, account for the deaths of over 150 individuals every day.

Current research has shown that fentanyl can be detected in urine for up to 72 hours. The team at UT Dallas is now working to enhance the technology to detect fentanyl in hair samples. Their ultimate goal is to develop a saliva test, which could be crucial for first responders to make treatment decisions for individuals who have overdosed.

The newly developed device contains an electrochemical sensor that generates electrical signals based on specific chemical reactions. However, detecting fentanyl posed a challenge due to its nonvolatile nature, which means it does not produce a distinct electrochemical signature. To tackle this issue, the researchers designed a molecular cage-like structure similar to a mousetrap. The “trap” consists of various substances, including gold nanoparticles. The researchers had to think creatively to find the perfect “cheese” for the trap.

Dr. Anirban Paul, a bioengineering researcher and the paper’s lead author, used reverse engineering to find a solution. Paul, who moved from India to collaborate with Prasad, decided to explore the use of naloxone, a medication used to reverse opioid overdoses. By conducting computational tests and understanding the interactions between various compounds, the researchers were able to deploy naloxone in such a way that it would attract fentanyl like a magnet.

With their groundbreaking handheld electrochemical sensor, the team at the University of Texas at Dallas has made a significant contribution to the field of drug testing by developing a rapid and accurate test for fentanyl detection. This technology has the potential to save countless lives by providing timely and reliable results, aiding medical professionals and first responders in making critical treatment decisions.

*Note:
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it