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University of Waterloo develops rapid opioid detection technique

Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada have developed a new blood testing technique that can identify the presence of potent opioids including the highly potent fentanyl in less than three minutes.

The method has been developed by Waterloo researchers and entrepreneurs to lead health innovation in the country.

Waterloo Department of Chemistry postdoctoral fellow Emir Nazdrajić said: “The difference between our blood testing method and traditional methods used in laboratories and hospitals is that we can do it faster and reach the same conclusion.

“Let’s say someone who has overdosed is in the emergency room, and doctors need to quickly determine what they’ve taken to treat them effectively. The speed of our method can be lifesaving.”

Capable of processing 96 blood samples simultaneously, the rapid testing approach is notably twice as fast as other available techniques.

The method involves placing a small volume of blood into a well plate containing a phosphate buffer.

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The plate is then subjected to agitation in a machine, and a solid phase microextraction (SPME) probe is used to target the drugs of interest.

Subsequently, the sample undergoes analysis by a mass spectrometer connected to a microfluidic open interface, delivering results in around 90 seconds.

Waterloo Department of Chemistry professor Dr Janusz Pawliszyn said: “There is a high demand for rapid screening methods using mass spectrometry that can decrease the turnaround time, cost and limits of quantitation of existing methodologies.

“Our method targets not only fentanyl but other drugs and certain types of diseases.”

Last year, the University of Waterloo’s systems design engineering professor, Alexander Wong, developed a new imaging technique, correlated diffusion imaging (CDI), to assess the impact of Covid-19 on the brain.

A new form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), CDI is designed to capture and mix MRI signals at different gradient pulse strengths and timings to show the differences in the way water molecules move in tissue.

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