Nowadays, COVID-19 has become a global pandemic. China, one of the early countries responded, has now achieved a milestone victory after hard work and great sacrifice and cost. However, the epidemic situation remains grave. Facing the virus, every nation, race, and individual is in solidarity with one another. Solidarity could not be more necessary word to describe the world's current fight against the COVID-19.
In this battle, Hitronics Technologies Inc. (hereinafter as Hitronics) feels obliged to join in, providing optical components for the new coronavirus detection equipment - PCR instruments, including: LED and laser collimation modules, fluorescent filters and mirrors, various lenses and complex lenses, detector modules and packages, optoelectronic-mechanical integration design and mass production solutions, etc.
COVID-19 is caused by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.There are two current detection methods: the RNA virus nucleic acid test and the blood antibody test.
Nucleic acid detection was performed by SARS-CoV-2 reagent in PCR (polymerase chain reaction) followed by optical detection of the presence or carrying capacity of the read virus.
This method usually involves a nasal or oral swab (there are also salivary methods being developed) to indicate whether the test subject has an active infection and may be infectious.This test requires the amplification of viral nucleic acids, which are then read quantitatively in a PCR instrument. Such instruments are generally large and complex, and many processing of nucleic acid samples and reagents, amplifying nucleic acids through a temperature cycled PCR process, and quantifying fluorescently labeled target nucleic acid molecules through optical modules are automated. The testing time can vary from a few minutes to a few days, depending on the instrument and the specific technical means.Nucleic acid PCR test is one key to understand and control the current COVID-19 epidemic.
Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system in response to specific infection.Blood tests can detect antibodies only during or after an infection.
Blood antibodies are generally measured by chromatography on a test rod (e.g., immunogold technology). This test has a wide range of uses, and it does not require large instruments. It can be tested instantly and anywhere (POCT), even at home.
It can test for past infections who are often not involved in nucleic acid testing due to mild or no symptoms. It is important to note that current research does not support an association between antibody positivity and being immune to COVID-19 and preventing reinfection with the virus.
Antibody testing can provide the most basic data for epidemiological studies.
Hundreds of laboratories and diagnostic development companies around the world are currently working around the clock to develop assays for the SARS-CoV-2 corona virus, which can summarize in the figure below.
(1): ARTIS Ventures https://www.av.co/covid
The nucleic acid detection PCR instrumentation for COVID-19 consists of the following major components.
Sample and Reagent Reaction Module - The sample is continuously and rapidly heated and cooled to a precise temperature (temperature cycling) to promote nucleic acid denaturation. The double strand will be separated. Then it can be recognized by the optical module after amplification to a certain concentration.
Optical Module - In the presence of a fluorescent reporter gene (e.g. DNA dye or marker probe), the presence of a target can be determined by measuring the fluorescence intensity of each PCR reaction.
Control and Analysis Software - External or embedded computer software systems control the real time reaction, analyze and report data.
(A) Bio-Rad CFX96 qPCR system, (B) MiniOpticon™ real-time PCR, (C) iQ™5 real-time PCR, (D) DNA Engine Opticon® 2 real-time PCR.
Regardless of the PCR instrument configuration and type, the optical system of the instrument includes the following components:
Light source: Mostly LED-based (some high-performance systems use lasers), monochrome or multicolor, single LED or multiple LED arrays. Although LED chips are relatively inexpensive, the entire light source module requires heat dissipation and temperature control, real-time monitoring and adjustment of light intensity, and collimation of the optical path through the lens. Thus, it requires strong technical skill in design and productions.Light source filter and probe filter: Different filters could output fluorescent marker-specific excitation wavelengths and collect marker-specific emission wavelengths. It also blocks other irrelevant wavelengths, which can significantly improve the read signal-to-noise ratio.
Optical path shaping system: Emitted light is focused on the sample through optical components such as lenses, prisms, cylindrical mirrors, coated dichroic mirrors. Fluorescence signals are collected to the detector.
Detectors: Depending on the system configuration, detectors are generally using simple photodiode PD, high sensitivity avalanche diode APD, imaging CMOS chips, or single photon sensitivity PMT or SiPM modules.
Electromechanical systems: Dynamic sample platform, motor for filter wheel, etc.
Although the current leading companies in biomedical testing equipment are still overseas (BioRad, Abbott, Cepheid, ThermoFisher, etc.), Chinese biomedical companies continue to improve domestic instruments, based on the huge domestic market demand and relied on national policy.
Among them, Hitronics, formed by the merger of three optical companies in 2016, has a team of engineers with decades of comprehensive experience in the field of biomedical optics, and can fully provide optical components and subsystem modules in PCR instruments. More than 120 opto-mechanical and electronic engineer teams and more than 900 employees can provide customers with design, low-cost OEM mass production, and processing and assembly solutions.
Hitronics offers a full range of optical components for PCR instruments, including: LED and laser collimation modules, fluorescent filters and mirrors, various lenses and complex lenses, detector modules and packages, optoelectronics-mechanical design and mass production solutions, etc.
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