Wearable Synthetic Biology: Clothing that can detect pathogens and toxins

(intense music) – What if we could create clothing that harnesses the power
of synthetic biology in order to create systems that can detect exposure to toxins and
pathogens in wearers? – Standard synthetic biology
sensors are not compatible in a wearable format, mostly
due to storage problems and a dependence on water. Using our shelf stable,
freeze-dried, cell-free reactions and toehold switches developed
at the Wyss Institute combined with CRISPR-based
SHERLOCK sensors, we've been able to overcome that barrier, creating the first programmable
bio-hybrid garment. – So we call it the wearable freeze-dried cell-free platform. And it's based on cell-free
synthetic biology reactions that we freeze dried and embedded into flexible materials and textiles. The system is very modular. We can easily reconfigure it
to detect different threats, for example, environmental
toxins or various pathogens. The platform is essentially
a programmable garment that mimics the complex
responsive capabilities of the human skin.

We've also created distributed
fiber optic networks that has integrated with those
synthetic biology reactions to make a wearable that
continuously scans the user and alerts them when an
exposure event is detected. – Well as one of the proof concepts for our wearable synthetic
biology platform, we created these COVID-19
detection face masks which basically plants two
interesting technologies. One that is very quick and versatile, lateral flow immunoassays, with another one that is
very sensitive and precise for nucleic acid
detection, called SHERLOCK. By combining those two,
we are able to provide really accurate results,
comparable to RTPCR for detection of SARS-CoV-2
in under 90 minutes. We have essentially shrunk down
an entire laboratory testing into a format that can be
incorporated into any face mask.

– This technology could be
incorporated into lab coats for research scientists that work with hazardous materials and pathogens, scrubs for doctors and nurses, or the uniforms of first
responders and military personnel who could be exposed
to dangerous pathogens or biological weapons such as nerve gas. We are currently searching for partners who could help develop this
to a production stage product. We believe that inexpensive,
rapid, and sensitive wearable sensors could
greatly improve the safety of those at risk for exposure to dangerous pathogens and toxins..

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