Researchers from Trinity College in Ireland, Montreal McGill University in Canada and the Université Grenoble Alpes in France have designed a graphene-based biosensor that can detect cholera toxins. It provides a reading in minutes, as opposed to current detection methods that may take hours.

The researchers explain that this biosensor could be modified to detect various other toxins like malaria and TB. They used graphene layers that cling tightly to the sensor's surface, but also hold the biological indicator that can read the presence of the cholera toxin. The graphene also delivered an unexpected effect - it boosted the sensor signal to give a two-fold increase on the response which made it much easier to get a reading. Graphene’s ability to boost sensors' signals also means that a smaller sample is required from the patient for detection, for example a pin-prick drop of blood, compared to a vial.

Patents are already in the works and the the lab will attempt to commercialize the design. The new biosensor relies on a well-established optical readout technique called Surface Plasmon Resonance, that is already in use in medical diagnosis and could provide lab-on-a-chip sensors. The next stage in the research will be to look at other ways graphene might be able to add functionality to sensor development.

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