Rapid POCT for opioids in the bloodstream

Point-of-care electrochemical sensors using revolutionary nanocarbon technology can rapidly test for opioid concentrations in the bloodstream. Finnish manufacturer Canatu say a finger-prick blood test can be analyzed quickly and cheaply on a high-tech film strip via a reader attached to a smartphone and deliver results in under five minutes.

Report: Mark Nicholls

Photo
Canatu Carbon NanoBud-based electrochemical sensor.

The point-of-care-testing (POCT) technology was detailed at virtual.Compamed 2020 by Canatu’s Chief Technical Officer Ilkka Varjos in a presentation entitled “Improving cost, time and performance with nanocarbon-based POC diagnostics”.

Varjos explained: “Over the last couple of decades, the misuse of opioids has increased significantly and opioid overdose is a major cause of death, yet there are no real-time means for measuring opioid concentrations in the blood. There is a need for a new testing method, which has to be fast, mobile, and cheap enough so it can be used in multiple settings that can accurately detect the amounts of opioids in the bloodstream.”

Standard laboratory methods remain expensive, bulky and slow, and while existing POCT methods are quantitative, they do not give clear concentrations of opioids in the bloodstream. With a need for such a test in a range of settings from hospitals, pain clinics and home use, Canatu developed point-of-care sensors that measures the concentration of painkillers like opioids in the bloodstream, with the portable test able to be performed virtually anywhere and not confined to the laboratory. “Based upon electro-chemical sensing,” he continued, “this rapid detection system can detect quantitatively the amounts of opioids in the bloodstream from a few drops of blood.”

This system works from a small finger-prick blood sample placed on a disposable plastic test strip with a carbon nanoparticle sensor and a reader attached to a smartphone.

Canat has extensive experience on sensors for the automotive industry, and has pioneered carbon nanomaterial solutions. The comoany has patented Carbon NanoBud (CNB) material which has unique optical, electrical, mechanical and chemical properties. The CNB-based electrochemical sensor is transparent, stretchable and flexible, while remaining electrically and thermally conductive, with a clean surface area ensuring good contact with the analyte.

With high sensitivity to detect low concentrations of opioids, the company says it outperformed reduced graphene oxide as an electro sensory material when benchmarked. “The overall conductivity of this is very good and results in high sensitivity and low detection of analytes, so it can sense even small traces of these opioids – such as morphine, codeine, and oxycodone - in the blood sample,” added Varjos.

In comparison to established methods, he said CNB is cheaper, quicker, and does not need high expertise to deliver. While high performance liquid chromatography takes several hours using a device costing € 100,000 and each test costs € 100 with high expertise needed, the Canatu test uses equipment costing € 3,000 and delivers tests costing € 10 with results in 1-5 minutes.

Photo
Ilkka Varjos, Canatu’s Chief Technical Officer.

Due to its properties, the material can be utilized in several different applications. “This sensor technology is not only suitable for painkillers and opioids,” he said. “We see this as a platform technology and the carbon structure can be functionalized by adding a different molecular structure to make it selective and sensitized for a wide range of tests.”

As the material is stretchable and very thin, it could also be adapted as a comfortable skin sensor to detect small traces of analytes, such a glucose or other substances from sweat.

PROFILE:
Ilkka Varjos, who joined Canatu in 2009, leads the company’s business development activities. With an MSc in printing and converting technologies from the Tampere University of Technology in Finland, he is experienced in taking products from the lab to production, and developing processes for the use of electronics manufacturing as well as production of printed electronics. He was named CTO of the Year 2019 in Finland.


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