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Bioengineers Group Create Quicker Saliva-based Detection Test for Marijuana

Researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas have created a sensor that makes use of saliva to rapidly report—within one minute—a subject’s level of THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana.

Dr. Shalini Prasad, interim department head of bioengineering in the Erik Jonsson College of Engineering and Computer Science, holds the THC biosensor her group developed. Her team consisted of electrical engineering Ph.D. scholar Devangsingh Sankhala, analysis engineer Paul Rice and biomedical engineering Ph.D. scholar Vikram Narayanan Dhamu.

Their proof-of-concept study, printed in September in Nature Scientific Reports, may clear the way for a brand new roadside DUI evaluation for THC that works in much the same manner as testing for alcohol impairment.

Cannabis is one of the most popular illegal drugs in the U.S. As states grapple with marijuana laws, public security agencies face challenges in figuring out those driving under its effect.

Their proof-of-concept research, printed in September in Nature Scientific Reviews, could pave the way for a new roadside DUI assessment for THC that works in a lot the same approach as testing for alcohol impairment.

Marijuana’s active element, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can strike a person’s memory, actions, decision-making, concentration, coordination, and sensory and time perception.

Prasad’s group previously developed biosensors that analyze sweat to detect levels of specific chemical compounds, such as glucose, in the human body. However, the timeline from when marijuana enters the body when it leaves via sweat is too long for public safety purposes.

Saliva offers a substitute for blood and sweat that solves the time issue whereas retaining accuracy. It can further be obtained simply through a swab of the cheek.

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