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Gold Nanoparticles Used To Make Pathogen Detector

A state-of-the-art detector for pathogenic organisms has been developed by a team of scientists. At its core is a set of gold nanoparticles, formed form a nanoporus material. The objective is to develop a portable instrument to detect human diseases.

The basis of the device is to detect nucleic acids using nanoporous gold as a new type of special sensor coating material. Nanoporous gold nanoparticles possess a much higher surface-to-volume ratio than bulk nanoporous gold films or gold nanoparticles.

The tint fragments of gold are used in combination with biomolecules. The combination allows for the accurate detection of DNA in complex biological samples like whole blood. The device scenes for ‘foreign’ DNA and characterises this against a range of potential pathogens, using biomarkers. The design of the device means that a blood sample from a patient can be quickly scanned to determine the nature of an infection.

One of the scientists behind the invention, Dr. Erkin Şeker, explained to Controlled Environments magazine how the process works. Here, he stated: “Nanoporous gold can be imagined as a porous metal sponge with pore sizes that are a thousand times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.”

He went onto explain that the sponge acts like a sieve, stopping unwanted biological material from passing through but allowing key nucleic acids to shift through. This shifting process leads to more accurate medical determinations.

The new process avoids the necessity of a laboratory method called nucleic acid purification. Here medics need to take a sample from a patient, transfer it to a laboratory for testing and then run multiple tests using specialized laboratory equipment. The new method is faster and the tests can be run in closer proximity to the patient.

The device remains at the prototype stage, although the results are promising. A further application will be for screening for plant pathogens. Here the device can be transported to a farm, and crop diseases screened for quickly.

The device was invented at UC Davis and the findings are published in the journal Analytical Chemistry. The research paper is titled “Effect of Nanoporous Gold Thin Film Morphology on Electrochemical DNA Sensing.”

Nanotechnology is being examined across medicine. In related news, there have been recent advances where nanoparticles have been used to fight cancer. In trials this has proved effective against hard-to-reach cancerous cells. By deploying tiny particles this helps avoid anti-cancer killing compounds from killing healthy cells.

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.