Advisory Board

Dr. Aurel Ymeti

The MIT Technology Review article A Fast, Sensitive Virus Detector: A sensor that measures the concentration of viruses in minutes could make possible a handheld device that cheaply and quickly spots pathogens said

Researchers at the University of Twente, in the Netherlands, have developed an ultrasensitive sensor that could potentially be used in a handheld device to, within minutes, detect various viruses and measure their concentration. The sensor could be used to quickly screen people at hospitals and emergency clinics to control outbreaks of diseases such as SARS and the bird flu. All it would take is a tiny sample of saliva, blood, or other body fluid.
 
Currently available methods to detect viruses are also sensitive. But they require laborious preparation of the fluid sample and only give results after several days. Since viral diseases can spread rapidly, researchers are looking for easier, faster ways to directly detect viruses. “You want a tool on which you apply the [fluid] sample on-site and in a few minutes say whether or not the person has the SARS virus,” says Aurel Ymeti, a postdoctoral researcher in biophysical engineering and the sensor’s lead developer.

Aurel Ymeti, PhD is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Biophysical Engineering Group, MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology and BMTI Institute for Biomedical Technology of the University of Twente in Enschede, The Netherlands.
 
Aurel was the principal developer of an ultrasensitive sensor that could potentially be used in a handheld device to, within minutes, detect various viruses and measure their concentration. The sensor could be used to quickly screen people at airports, hospitals, and emergency clinics. All it would take is a tiny sample of saliva, blood, or other body fluid. The attention this sensor has achieved in the international scientific and nanotechnology community can be understood in the light of recent serious virus outbreaks such as SARS and H5N1 bird flu virus. Future viral outbreaks are a major threat to the societal and economic development throughout the world. Therefore a rapid, sensitive, and easy-to-use test for viral infections is essential to prevent and to control such viral pandemics. Furthermore, a compact, portable device is potentially very useful in remote or developing regions without easy access to sophisticated laboratory facilities.
 
He is currently working on a project for development of a point-of-care diagnostic tool for staging HIV/AIDS in resource-poor settings such as Africa. His main tasks are the overall design, realization, and testing of all physical and optical instrumentation; to perform technological research required for new applications; to design alternative methods. Based on the technology developed during this project, Immunicon Corporation has commercialized EasyCount System™, a novel inexpensive instrument for life science research applications.
 
His research interests include nanotechnology, lab-on-a-chip devices for biomedical applications, microfluidics, and point-of-care instrumentation.
 
Aurel coauthored Fast, Ultrasensitive Virus Detection Using a Young Interferometer Sensor in Nano Letters, A single platform image cytometer for resource-poor settings to monitor disease progression in HIV infection in Cytometry Part A, Drift correction in a multichannel integrated optical Young interferometer in Applied Optics, Integration of microfluidics with a four-channel integrated optical Young interferometer immunosensor in Biosensors and Bioelectronics, Realization of a multichannel integrated Young interferometer chemical sensor in Applied Optics, and Development of a multichannel integrated interferometer immunosensor in Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical.
 
He earned a MSc in Physics from the University of Tirana, Albania, in 1996. After working as a Teaching Assistant at the Polytechnic University of Tirana, Albania, in 1997, and following an international graduate program in High Energy Physics at the University of Siegen, Germany, in 1998, he earned a PhD in Applied Physics from the University of Twente, The Netherlands, in 2004. His thesis was Development of a Multichannel Integrated Young Interferometer Immunosensor.
 
Read the MESA+ interview with Aurel Ymeti.