Monday, June 1, 2009

A Possible Faster and Cheaper Way to Detect Viruses

Researchers at USC have developed a faster and potentially cheaper way to detect very small protein particles, such as the proteins found on the surface membranes of viruses. The new system employs engineered antibodies attached to a nanowire which is in turn connected to an electrically responsive base. The binding of the antibody to its specific ligand induces an electrical current which is easily registered. This work marks an important advancement in nanowire biosensor technology; one of the key advancements is the use of indium oxide, an exotic metal oxide which unlike silicon oxides, which was used in previous designs, does suffer from degradation in sensitivity.

In particular, the prototype was designed to detect the n-protein on the SARS virus. In tests, the nanosensor performed at least as well in sensitivity and specificity as the best available method currently- enzyme-like immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The advantage however, is that nanosensors take approximately 10 minutes for a reliable result whereas ELISA would require hours. Furthermore, nanosensors have the potential of being cheaply scaled.



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