Nanotechnology enables simple, rapid and affordable diagnostic tests
A test at the pharmacy to determine if your sore throat is caused by a virus or by a bacterial infection. A test at the medical center that can rapidly determine which virus strains that are involved in an influenza case. A test that the veterinarian can bring along and use directly while visiting the farm…
These are a few of the opportunities that are opening up as the result of new technology for DNA-based tests developed by researchers at Uppsala University.
The patented detection principle is based on magnetic nanoparticles that can hybridize (bind at the nucleic acid level) to the target molecules you are looking for. These molecules have been enlarged to so-called DNA-coils and are recognized very specifically through hybridization to a so-called padlock probe. The detection and assaying of the target molecules is then accomplished by measuring the magnetic properties of the sample.
“Today fluorescence-based measuring is commonly used for the analysis of biomedical samples. This means that the measuring instrument must contain advanced optical components like lenses and lasers. And all this is expensive,” says Maria Strömme, professor at the Ångström Laboratory and one of the inventors of the new diagnostic method.
”Our new technology uses cheap electrical components. The lower cost makes it possible to have the instrument at pharmacies, medical centers and with the veterinary out in the field, in the long term possibly even in our homes.”
One example of a possible application is a test enabling patients to get a diagnosis of e.g. a throat infection or other conditions at the pharmacy, without going to a medical center or emergency ward. Is it a viral infection that will subside without treatment, or is it a bacterial infection requiring a visit to the doctor and treatment with antibiotics?
“A simple and safe way to answer this question can also contribute to avoiding unnecessary prescriptions of antibiotics and help slow down the development of antibiotic resistance,” says Maria Strömme.