Martin O'Toole and Sergio Mendes
Martin O'Toole and Sergio Mendes

University of Louisville researchers are working on a potential breakthrough for early detection of influenza, pneumonia, eye infections and maybe even cancer. Physics professor Sergio Mendes and his team (bioengineering professor Martin O’Toole and PhD student Jafar Ghithan) have figured out how to capture and detect molecules associated with the flu using ultrathin film on glass, lasers and electroactive waveguides.

“The breakthrough on the technology is there,” Mendes says. “I think we’re the only group in the world that’s able to replicate this particular process.”

Mendes says he’s hoping to find funding to create a hand held device so “you could do the test in the doctor’s office or out in the field.” Physicians would have the results within an hour, instead of waiting for hours on lab results that might come too late for a patient to effectively fight off or minimize the effects of the flu. The early detection could also help stop viral outbreaks from happening.

Mendes and his team are checking the reliability of their test while also trying to improve the technology so it could probe several different viruses, infections or health problems at the same time. Doing that would make the device more marketable. Their work has been selected for the special issue of Optics and Photonics News magazine as the most exciting peer-reviewed research emerging in the field in the past year.

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Mark Hebert

Following a 28-year career as a radio and television reporter, Mark Hebert joined the University of Louisville as the Director of Media Relations in 2009, serving as the main spokesperson. In 2015, Mark was named Director of Programming and Production. He’s now producing and hosting a radio show about “all things UofL”, overseeing the university’s video and TV productions and promoting UofL’s research operation. Mark is best known for his 22 years as the political and investigative reporter for WHAS-TV in Louisville where he won numerous awards for breaking stories, exposing corruption and objectively covering Kentucky politics. In 2014, Mark was inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame.