The butterfly effect in nanotech medical diagnostics

February 6, 2012

Tiny metallic nanoparticles that shimmer in the light like the scales on a butterfly's wing are set to become the color-change components of a revolutionary new approach to point-of-care medical diagnostics, according to a study published in International Journal of Design Engineering.

Thomas Schalkhammer and colleagues at Attophotonics Biosciences GmbH in Austria are working with Roland Palkovits of the University of Applied Sciences, in Wiener Neustadt, to develop a nanoparticle microfluidic color device for medical diagnostics. The team has demonstrated proof of principle in the detection of as an important marker of acute sepsis.

The researchers point out that point-of-care medical diagnostics is an important part of healthcare today because it provides timely information to medical staff caring for patients as well as ensuring safety and providing useful surveillance data for emergency as well as long-term public health strategies. Various studies, including one from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have emphasized repeatedly the importance of point-of-care diagnostics. As such, researchers the world over are searching for the insights and the technology to make simple, portable, and effective diagnostic devices to meet this need.

The Austrian team has developed a novel immunoassay for gold or palladium nanoparticles that are captured via immune-reactive proteins and positioned as a thin layer just a few nanometers above a light reflective surface. The nanoparticles and the mirror form an interference system the color of which can be tuned across the visible light spectrum. A - a so-called - takes in a sample. If the target biomolecule, the disease marker, is present it will attach to the modified nanoparticles and cause a visible color change.

The addition of a silver colloidal solution enhances the effect making the metallic color change even more apparent. The tests can be performed in the clinic in just two to three minutes and importantly avoids any medical laboratory bottlenecks and incubation times for samples. The team reports that the tests are highly accurate and sensitive to a mere half a millionth of a milligram (500 picograms) per milliliter of sample. The nanoparticle test works even if the sample is cloudy.

Explore further: New lab-on-a-chip can detect heart and gum disease instantly

More information: "Development of a nanoparticle microfluidic colour device for point-of-care diagnostics" in Int. J. Design Engineering, vol 4, 159-185

Related Stories

New lab-on-a-chip can detect heart and gum disease instantly

January 28, 2005

Someday in the not-too-distant future patients may visit a doctor’s office, provide a sample of saliva or blood, and know in minutes if they are prone to heart disease, gum disease, or cancer. There would be no sending ...

New Nanoparticle to Help Researchers Study Angiogenesis

January 15, 2009

( -- Adah Almutairi, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of California, San Diego, is first author of a paper recently published in the Proceedings ...

Recommended for you

Physicists develop new technique to fathom 'smart' materials

November 26, 2015

Physicists from the FOM Foundation and Leiden University have found a way to better understand the properties of manmade 'smart' materials. Their method reveals how stacked layers in such a material work together to bring ...

Mathematicians identify limits to heat flow at the nanoscale

November 24, 2015

How much heat can two bodies exchange without touching? For over a century, scientists have been able to answer this question for virtually any pair of objects in the macroscopic world, from the rate at which a campfire can ...

New sensor sends electronic signal when estrogen is detected

November 24, 2015

Estrogen is a tiny molecule, but it can have big effects on humans and other animals. Estrogen is one of the main hormones that regulates the female reproductive system - it can be monitored to track human fertility and is ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.