A new silicon chip that harnesses emerging technology at the nano scale will allow the detection of viruses faster, and more accurately, than ever before. One of the applications of this new technique will help save thousands of lives in patients undergoing heart transplants; by enabling doctors to detect rapidly whether a donor heart is infected or not. The scientists announced their discovery today in the Institute of Physics journal Nanotechnology.
The device, called the “ViriChip” was developed by a team led by Dr Saju Nettikadan from BioForce Nanosciences, in collaboration with Des Moines University, both in the USA.
The ViriChip is a small silicon chip about a quarter of an inch across (6mm) which has tiny droplets of antibodies printed on the surface. A single ViriChip can be printed with hundreds of different antibodies. These antibodies act as landing pads for viruses, which attach themselves selectively to certain antibodies. Once the viruses have landed on a particular droplet, they can be detected using an atomic force microscope (AFM). The AFM is a small and simple machine that uses a tiny “finger” to feel bumps on the surface of the chip at the nanometer scale. The AFM method is fast, very sensitive (it can “see” individual viruses) and it does not destroy the viruses so they can be further analyzed e.g. by cell culture and other methods.
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