Potalyzer - Nanotech device can detect THC levels in 3 minutes to see if you're high while driving

09/10/2016 - 18:19

Carrie Kirby | Image: Paramount Pictures

This November, several states will vote whether to legalize marijuana use, joining more than 20 states that already allow some form of cannabis use. This has prompted a need for effective tools for police to determine on the spot whether people are driving under the influence.

Stanford researchers have devised a potential solution, applying magnetic nanotechnology, previously used as a cancer screen, to create what could be the first practical roadside test for marijuana intoxication.


Ref: Small Molecule Detection in Saliva Facilitates Portable Tests of Marijuana Abuse. Analytical Chemistry (19 July 2016) | DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.6b01688


As medical and recreational use of cannabis, or marijuana, becomes more prevalent, law enforcement needs a tool to evaluate whether drivers are operating vehicles under the influence of cannabis, specifically the psychoactive substance, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). However, the cutoff concentration of THC that causes impairment is still controversial, and current on-site screening tools are not sensitive enough to detect trace amounts of THC in oral fluids. Here we present a novel sensing platform that employs giant magnetoresistive (GMR) biosensors integrated with a portable reader system and smartphone to detect THC in saliva using competitive assays. With a simple saliva collection scheme, we have optimized the assay to measure THC in the range from 0 to 50 ng/mL, covering most cutoff values proposed in previous studies. This work facilitates on-site screening for THC and shows potential for testing of other small molecule drugs and analytes in point-of-care (POC) settings.