The testing method developed by Cooper and his team has been proven to be both fast and accurate. Users first obtain samples of grain suspected to be tainted, liquefy them and expose them to a customized test strip specifically designed to detect aflatoxin. A smartphone or tablet is then held over the test strip for automated image analysis. Within minutes the smartphone screen displays two bands - a control band and a test band to quantify the level of the grain infection.
A key part of the "Lab-on-Mobile Device," or LMD, platform developed by Cooper's team is the Mobile Imaging Ratiometry, or MRI, a unique software algorithm developed by Cooper that analyzes the images from the smartphones or tablets in real time. The information is geo-tagged and shared through cloud computing in remote data storage facilities that can be instantly made available to project participants. The LMD technology also will allow for the creation of real-time electronic "push-pin" maps showing places where aflatoxins have been detected.
Cooper's plan is to eventually put smartphones or electronic tablets into the hands of people working in strategic farm communities. "If we can become operational on 100 different farms, for example, and conduct several tests a week, then we will be able to start aggregating data and looking at trends over time," he said. "We might be able to detect particular times when aflatoxin in grains starts to appear on the market during informal grain exchanges, allowing us to pinpoint the origin of the infected grain."
In addition to learning about agriculture in
Such detection could open the door for more effective mitigation strategies to halt the outbreaks, including treating only parts of specific crop fields rather than spraying entire fields with pesticides. "We are looking for strategic partners, in this case community leaders, who can help us implement this technology," said Cooper.
Rapid test strips are typically made of cellulose nitrate with antibody-impregnated pads designed to react with specific antigens to produce a specific visual signal. There are now LMD-compatible strips used to identify more than 1,000 different pathogens and pollutants.
Aflatoxins are estimated to contaminate roughly 25 percent of the global food supply according to the
Grand Challenges Explorations fund individuals worldwide who are taking innovative approaches to some of the world's toughest and most persistent global health and development challenges. GCE invests in bold ideas that have potential to solve problems people in the developing world face every day, according to the
Experts estimate seed-borne diseases cause a loss of 50 million tons of food annually and that losses in developing countries are 60 to 80 percent higher than in industrialized countries. Estimates show 90 to 95 percent of seed used by small-scale and subsistence farmers is acquired through informal sources at the farm and community level.
CU owns exclusive license to the technology developed by Cooper and his team and has an equity share in
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