A UCF researcher has combined cutting-edge nanoscience with a magnetic phenomenon discovered more than 170 years ago to create a method for speedy medical tests.
The discovery, if commercialized, could lead to faster test results for HIV, Lyme disease, syphilis, rotavirus and other infectious conditions.
“I see no reason why a variation of this technique couldn’t be in every hospital throughout the world,” said Shawn Putnam, an assistant professor in the University of Central Florida’s College of Engineering & Computer Science.
At the core of the research recently published in the academic journal Small are nanoparticles – tiny particles that are one-billionth of a meter. Putnam’s team coated nanoparticles with the antibody to BSA, or bovine serum albumin, which is commonly used as the basis of a variety of diagnostic tests.
By mixing the nanoparticles in a test solution – such as one used for a blood test – the BSA proteins preferentially bind with the antibodies that coat the nanoparticles, like a lock and key.
That reaction was already well known. But Putnam’s team came up with a novel way of measuring the quantity of proteins present. He used nanoparticles with an iron core and applied a magnetic field to the solution, causing the particles to align in a particular formation. As proteins bind to the antibody-coated particles, the rotation of the particles becomes sluggish, which is easy to detect with laser optics.
The interaction of a magnetic field and light is known as Faraday rotation, a principle discovered by scientist Michael Faraday in 1845. Putnam adapted it for biological use.
“It’s an old theory, but no one has actually applied this aspect of it,” he said.
Other antigens and their unique antibodies could be substituted for the BSA protein used in the research, allowing medical tests for a wide array of infectious diseases.
The proof of concept shows the method could be used to produce biochemical immunology test results in as little as 15 minutes, compared to several hours for ELISA, or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, which is currently a standard approach for biomolecule detection.
Scientists at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a new method to rapidly detect a single virus in urine, as reported this week in the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Although the technique presently works on just one virus, scientists say it could be adapted to detect a range of viruses that plague humans including Ebola, Zika and HIV.
“The ultimate goal is to build a cheap, easy-to-use device to take into the field and measure the presence of a virus like Ebola in people on the spot,” says Jeffrey Dick, a chemistry graduate student and co-lead author of the study. “While we are still pretty far from this, this work is a leap in the right direction.”
The other co-lead author is Adam Hilterbrand, a microbiology graduate student.
The new method is highly specific, meaning it is only sensitive to one type of virus, filtering out possible false negatives caused by other viruses or contaminants.
There are two other commonly used methods for detecting viruses in biological samples, but they have drawbacks. One requires a much higher concentration of viruses, and the other requires samples to be purified to remove contaminants. The new method, however, can be used with urine straight from a person or animal.