Detecting COVID-19 Antibodies in 10-12 Seconds?

Researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University have reported an advanced nanomaterial-based biosensing platform that detects, within seconds, antibodies specific to SARS-CoV-2. Additionally, this platform will help quantify patient immunological response to the new vaccines with precision. The biosensing platform is created by 3D nanoimprinting of three‐dimensional electrodes, coating the electrodes by nanoflakes of reduced‐graphene‐oxide (rGO), and immobilizing specific viral antigens on the rGO nanoflakes.

The testing platform identifies the presence of two of the virus’ antibodies, spike S1 protein and receptor-binding domain (RBD), in a very small drop of blood (about 5 microliters). Antibody concentrations can be extremely low and still detected below one picomolar (0.15 nanograms per milliliter). This detection happens through an electrochemical reaction within a handheld microfluidic device which sends results almost immediately to a simple interface on a smartphone.

The researchers have used the latest techniques such as nanoparticle 3D printing to create the device. An additive manufacturing technology called aerosol jet 3D printing is responsible for the accuracy and efficiency of the testing platform. The tiny gold micropillar electrodes are printed at the nanoscale using aerosol droplets that are thermally sintered together. This causes a rough, irregular surface that provides an increased surface area of the micropillars and an enhanced electrochemical reaction, where antibodies can latch on to antigens coated on the electrode.

The specific geometry allows the micropillars to load more proteins for detection, resulting in very accurate, quick results. The test has a very low error rate because the binding reaction between the antibody and antigen used in the device is highly selective. This sensing platform is generic and can be adopted for rapid detection of biomarkers for other infectious agents such as HIV, Zika, and Ebola.  

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