Startup Unveils Air Quality Biosensor That Relies On Human Lung Cells

Researchers at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill are developing a device that can more accurately measure air quality and safety. Current tools measure toxicity levels in the environment, but there is no simple relationship between toxic air pollutants and health risks.

To address this, Harvey Jeffries, PhD has led a team of engineers as they built an instrument that uses human lung cells to directly measure the health hazards in the air. As scientists work to understand the complex relationships between toxin levels, environmental factors such as altitude and sunlight, and their subsequent health effects, Jeffries has reported that biological sensors have provided an unbiased source of truth.

"The advantage of using a biological sensor is it says ‘I’m being harmed. I don’t care if you don’t know what’s causing me harm, I’m being harmed. That means it draws attention, it makes you do the work and do a better job of figuring out what’s going on." – Harvey Jeffries, PhD, lead researcher at UNC Chapel Hill.

The research team hopes to mass produce the units for deployment across particularly polluted cities. Fellow researcher Will Vizuete has launched a medical device startup called Biodeptronics to sell the units to universities and public health organizations.

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