VTT develops paper-based drug test

The Finnish research group VTT has developed a drug test printed on paper. This is a relatively cheap way of producing such tests, suitable to high volume production and allows for a rapid analysis as to whether a compound – in this case, morphine – is present in a given sample. Possible future applications of the developed test include drug testing at workplaces and in connection with traffic control.

It works by using by antibodies – produced by methods of molecular biology – as morphine sensing molecules. Tomi Erho, Principal Scientist at VTT, explains: “In 2010, we proved that the VTT method works in a hemoglobin assay. Through our continued development efforts, we wanted to confirm that the method also works in mass-production of more demanding tests. Morphine as a small-sized molecule places major requirements on the analytical performance of the test. In the future, the new method will also present an opportunity to simultaneously analyse other drugs of abuse and residues of pharmaceuticals and their metabolites from one and the same sample.”

These tests have shown that paper can replace nitrocellulose, which is typically used as a reaction and flow substrate, to provide a very low-cost, lightweight and biodegradable material alternative. In the future, paper could also become a competitive alternative for commonly used plastic-based assay platforms.

This would fit in with a growing trend for home and work-based testing outside of laboratories, which depends on such effective but low cost solutions.

This research was just one part of research projects mainly funded by Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation. The VTT study “A paper-based lateral flow assay for morphine” was published in the Analytical & Bioanalytical Chemistry journal: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00216-014-8001-7


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