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Jul 09, 2016 10:29 AM EDT

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Nima, with CEO Shireen Yates MBA '13 and Chief Product Officer Scott Sundvor '12 as co-founders, has developed a highly sensitive gluten sensor that allows diners know whether their food contains gluten or non-gluten components. This gluten detector is portable, so you can have it in your hand carry during dine-out.

This is a breakthrough development especially to people with celiac disease or gluten intolerances. Since dining out can really be stressful for them. This gluten detector can trace amounts of the protein present in wheat, rye and barley even in all the food on your plate, MIT News wrote.

The National Institutes of Health said that celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder leading to intestinal damage once gluten is eaten. Around 1 percent of the US population or roughly 3 million people is affected by this illness. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness added that millions more are at risk from non-celiac gluten intolerances.

How Nima Portable Gluten Detector Work

The Nima sensor is a 3-inch-tall triangular device integrated with disposable capsules. To operate:

1.       Diners may put a sample of food (pea-sized) or liquid into the capsule.

2.       Screw on the top.

3.       Insert the capsule into the device where it mixes the food into a solution that detects gluten.

4.       In two to three minutes, a display shows up on the sensor. This will indicate whether the food sample does or does not contain gluten.

5.       Get the result from Nima App which was automatically sent by the detector.

6.       The diner can enter information about what and where they ate. Any Nima user can log in to see the results. 

Sensitive Gluten Sensor

Nima can detect gluten at 20 parts per million (ppm) or more the maximum concentration for gluten-free foods as set by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Nima's high sensitivity emanates from the immunoassay within the sensor. It is developed primarily by Jingqing Zhang, an MIT chemical engineering alumnus SM '12, PhD '13 and now the lead scientist at Nima. This immunoassay contains custom antibodies that are highly sensitive to gluten molecules. When it detects gluten, this antibody ties to the gluten particles which causes a color change in the immunoassay. The color is captured by an optical reader. If any gluten is detected, an icon with a "gluten found" message will pop up. If the sample has less than 20 ppm of gluten, the sensor will show a smiley, MIT News added.

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