Researchers from BioForce Nanosciences
Inc., Iowa State University and Des Moines University have combined an
atomic force microscope with a method of capturing virus particles to
produce a tool that rapidly detects viruses.
The atomic force microscopy immunocapture assay consists of a
chip, dubbed the ViriChip, that contains antibody molecules used to selectively
capture viruses. An atomic force microscope is then used to analyze what
has been trapped. Atomic force microscopes use nanoscale tips to trace
the topography of surfaces and are capable of detecting individual atoms.
The method identifies a virus using an entire virus particle rather
than viral components, can detect viruses in liquids, and does not need
to destroy viruses during the identification process. This allows intact,
identified viruses to be further analyzed, according to the researchers.
Standard virus detection methods destroy viruses by chemically
extracting DNA or RNA in order to generate the many copies of the molecules
need for genetic analysis.
Another way to make antibody-based virus detection devices is
to use exceedingly small and thus very sensitive nanowires or nanotubes.
Nanowires and nanotubes can be as narrow as the span of a few atoms. This
approach is development in other research labs, but is likely to take
longer to make practical than the atomic force microscope method, according
to the researchers.
The researchers used their prototype assay to detect six related
viruses and a pair of bacteriophages from a range of complex mixtures
including serum, urine, and primary wastewater sludge inoculated with
The immunosensor array could be ready for practical use within
a year, according to the researchers. The work appeared in the January
19, 2004 issue of Nanotechnology.
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