CHRIS GEDDES, PROFESSOR OF CHEMISTRY AND BIOCHEMISTRY, DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE OF FLUORESCENCE
Right now it can take hours, if not days, to test for bioagents such as salmonella or anthrax, complicating efforts to respond when a disease is spreading or when a letter containing suspicious white powder is found in the mail.
Technology developed by Chris Geddes and his colleagues at UMBC’s Institute of Fluorescence cuts that time to seconds. The process, called Microwave-Accelerated Metal-Enhanced Fluorescence, has two stages: Microwaves are used to quickly remove genetic material from a test sample. The sample is then exposed to a laser, and it glows if the bioagent is present.
The technique opens the door to rapid and inexpensive tests for a range of bioagents, and the technique has many other uses. For instance, clinical heart attack markers can be detected within seconds, raising the possibility of confirming a heart attack during an ambulance ride instead of hours later when lab results come back at the hospital.