Wonder + Wildness

Chasing wonder on a science guided journey through the natural world in search of meaning, connections, and the courage to hope

Ostrich Cells Used to Make Glowing COVID-19 Detecting Masks

Yasuhiro Tsukamoto and his team of researchers at Kyoto Prefectural University in Japan have developed a mask that helps detect COVID-19 under blacklight using cells from the Ostrich.

Previous studies have shown that birds have a fairly strong natural resistance to COVD-19 which comes from their antibodies.

The mask filter is coated with Ostrich antibodies which target the virus. In their small study, subjects wore the masks for 8 hours, after which the filters were sprayed with a chemical that causes it to glow under ultraviolet light only if the virus is present in the filter. Sure enough, the masks worn by the sample of subjects infected with COVID-19 shined bright.

There is a potential for this to become the basis of a low-cost at-home tool for a world still deep in the muck of a global pandemic. However, it raises some clear questions of practicality—something the research team acknowledges.

They hope to continue developing this new tool so that the masks glow without needing to be removed and sprayed with any special chemicals

The team hopes to further develop the masks so that they will glow automatically, without special lighting, if the virus is detected.

Tsukamoto, the lead researcher on this project, is also a veterinary professor and the president of the university. He’s long looked to the immune systems of birds in helping humans. He himself actually first discovered his own positive COVID-19 diagnosis (later confirmed by a lab test) by using one of his newly developed masks.

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