Nanotechnology is being used at surface-level for the development of COVID-19 tests. The SARS-CoV-2 spike protein provides a target for visualization and nano-based technologies are able to identify this protein in a more rapid and accurate way than current diagnostics being used. This article shows a timeline of the efforts of different research and biotechnology groups in making these tests available as soon as possible.
MinION device used for whole-genome sequencing of COVID-19 in the field
The device created by Oxford Nanopore Technologies – MinION Mk1C – is now being used in the field globally for whole genome sequencing with real-time, GPU computing. Institutions in China are among the first to use the device for sequencing of COVID-19 samples. For more information on this, please see here.
Antigen test developed for fast initial screening of COVID-19 in patients
A paper published in Frontiers in Medicine recently, describes the use of an immunochromatographic assay using membrane technology involving colloidal gold nanoparticles and monoclonal antibodies directed against the SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 nucleoprotein antigen, named the COVID-19 Ag Respi-Strip. A nasopharyngeal swab is taken from the patient for testing as a quick screening strategy, to determine whether further tests are needed.
Llama antibodies could neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus
A team of scientists from The University of Texas at Austin (TX, USA), the National Institutes of Health (MD, USA) and Ghent University (Belgium) have developed an antibody therapy that has shown initial success in blocking the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, preventing infection of host cells. The therapy uses antibodies from llamas (Lama glama) to manufacture antibodies that neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
For more on this antibody therapy, see the full news release here.
Gold-coated nanovesicles for rapid coronavirus imaging
Researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas (TX, USA) have repurposed their gold-coated nanovesicle drug delivery technology for use in the diagnosis of COVID-19. The nanovesicles are attached to an antibody that can bind to proteins on the surface of viruses. On triggering with an infrared laser they release nanobubbles which denote the presence of the virus. For more on this technology, see here.
Biosensor detects SARS-CoV-2 in nasopharyngeal swabs
The Korea Research Institute of Chemical technology (Daejeon, Republic of Korea) and Korea Basic Science Institute (Cheongju, Republic of Korea) have come together to develop a transistor-based biosensor made up of graphene nanosheets and coated with a SARS-CoV-2-specific antibody. The sensor is highly sensitive and can detect the virus from a simple solution from nasopharyngeal swab samples.
For more details on this biosensor, please see here.
COVID-19: Engineers awarded federal funding for fluorescence test
Engineers from the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis (MO, USA) have developed a plasmonic-fluor biosensor, based on an ultrabright fluorescent nanoprobe. Gold nanoparticles are used as an antenna to concentrate light into a fluorophore that coats the nanoparticle, which emits a much stronger signal than conventional methods to be detected.
For more information on this see the full article here.
Mologic antibody test validated externally
Mologic, the developers of the rapid finger-prick antibody test for SARS-CoV-2 announce that their test has been independently validated by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (UK) and St George’s, University of London (UK) and that they will start manufacturing for distribution immediately.
To see the full story on Mologic, visit here.
Nanobodies enable better imaging of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein
A collaborative project led by The Rosalind Franklin Institute (Oxford, UK), Protein Production UK, have developed nanobodies that have an affinity for the spike proteins found on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The nanobodies can stabilize these spike proteins and allow for better imaging, which can lead to a better understanding of the virus and potentially new therapeutics. Read more here and see the interview with Protein Production UK leader, Ray Owens, here.
Using computer models to outsmart spike proteins in SARS-CoV-2
Researchers from the University of Illinois (Chicago, IL, USA) have designed and used a computer model to test which out of different forms of a peptide inhibitor therapy, would be most effective against COVID-19. The computer model should help to determine which drug is most promising and should be developed for further testing. See how the researchers have done this, here.
A new test to detect viral DNA in COVID-19 patients
The University of Zurich (Switzerland) and the Institute of Environmental Engineering (Zurich, Switzerland) have come together to help bring to fruition a dual-function plasmonic biosensor – structured around a gold nanoisland – that can be used to detect the DNA of SARS-CoV-2 in a more accurate and timely manner than current methods.
To read more on the biosensor, follow this link.
Validation of antibody tests to fight COVID-19 underway
The biotechnology company Mologic (Bedford, UK) has developed a colorimetric biosensor that can detect antibody biomarkers, IgG and IgM, of SARS-CoV-2 in a simple finger-prick blood test. The company is hoping this rapid diagnostic test can be distributed soon.
See here for more details.
COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium receives £20 million in funding
The UK government gives funding of £20 million to COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium to map the spread and behavior of the novel coronavirus. The consortium, made up of institutions across the UK including the NHS, Public Health Agencies, Wellcome Sanger Institute and the University of Oxford will use technology such as nanopore sequencing to analyse the genetic code of the virus and use this information to develop technologies to combat the outbreak.
Read more on this project here.
Oxford nanopore MinION devices sent to China
The MinION device, developed by Oxford Nanopore Technologies, is a portable DNA and RNA sequencing device that can analyse 30 Gb of DNA sequence data or 7-12 million reads of RNA data. The device can stream data in real-time and does not need a laboratory set up. 200 MinION devices have been shipped to China to aid in coronavirus surveillance.
See more on how nanopore sequencing is being used in efforts to develop COVID-19 tests here.
Whole genome sequencing of novel coronavirus
Researchers from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Beijing, China) published a paper in The Lancet showcasing the genomic characterisation and epidemiology of the 2019 novel coronavirus. They used several sequencing methods, including a combination of Sanger, Illumina, and Oxford nanopore sequencing to analyze the viral DNA to create DNA libraries for analysis.
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