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FemEng - Learning circuits and Biosensors part 1

This article is part of the FemEng Technical Workshop series. 

My name is Rebecca, and I am a second-year Biomedical engineering student. I have been learning how to use an Arduino through Femeng’s amazing courses. These courses have taught me so much about electronics and how to use Arduinos to make basic circuits. I have attached a video of a circuit I created using the FemEng course. We learnt how to code an RGB circuit to create our own colour pattern sequences, this made the learning process really exciting. Now my University courses are coming to an end for this semester I will have more time to discover the potential of using an Arduino. As a complete beginner in electronics, I am excited to start learning through some exciting projects. The courses from Femeng have inspired me to integrate the use of Arduinos (769-7409) in my group's biosensing project.

Video of RGB rainbow circuit

During the next few months, I am going to be working to use an Arduino to create a biosensor for the H1N1 virus, as part of Glasgow university’s SensUs Team. We aim to detect the hemagglutinin (H1) surface protein, that would be found on the influenza virus, using an aptamer-based method. We are extremely grateful to have received funding from RS Grassroots for this project. We will be incorporating many parts of our biosensor within the Arduino circuit, from motors to drive the fluidics to a display that tells the patient their results.

I am really looking forward to the learning process and gaining a better understanding of electronics and coding. I will start this introduction post with some information about biosensors and why they are so important in health care.

A biosensor is a device that changes a biological signal into an electrical signal. The electrical signal can then be analysed. There are many areas within biosensing that focus on sensing different biological signals such as temperature, heart rate and the presence or absence of a particular molecule. Analysing this information can give doctors the information to diagnose a patient. For example, an echocardiogram (ECG) can determine if the patient has an issue with the functioning of their heart. Biosensors are now also common on devices such as smartwatches. These allow the user to track their steps and heart rate.

Biosensors convert biological signals into electrical signals for analysis

The SensUs competition has tasked our team with developing a biosensor that detects the Hemagglutinin (H1) protein within artificial saliva. Hemagglutinin is a glycoprotein found on the surface of the virus. Our current aim is to develop an at-home biosensor that would enable quick and accurate testing for influenza. In addition to this, we are hoping to create a biosensor with a low environmental impact. We plan to make as many components reusable or recyclable as possible, as current at-home tests are usually disposable. We will also be looking at the carbon footprint of our design and the sustainability of the manufacturing processes.

This challenge is currently in the research phase however progress is being made on the specific detection method. Our team will be using an Arduino as the output method. This will transform the electrical signals from the circuitry into signals on a laptop which can be analysed. I am extremely grateful for RS Grassroots support in providing the components for this project. Without their help, this project would be halted to a stop due to the current pandemic restrictions. The components will enable us to develop some prototype ideas of circuits whilst lab access is unavailable.

Development kit including Arduino Uno and accessories

If you would like to follow the progress of our Glasgow University team (Influwegians):

I'm a second year Biomedical Engineering student at Glasgow University. One of my main interests within Biomedical Engineering is biosensors and diagnostics. This year I've been working as part of the Influwegians team to take part in the SensUs competition.
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