In the war against infectious disease, identifying the culprit is half the battle. Now, research professor Shaopeng Wang and his colleagues from the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, describe a new method for visualizing individual virus particles. Their research opens the door to a more detailed understanding of these minute pathogens, and may further the study of a broad range of micro- and nanoscale phenomena.
The group's findings appear in the August 23rd Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, advanced online issue.
Detection and identification of infectious invaders are critical for efforts to diagnose, prevent, and control these skillful pathogens. In the current study, individual H1N1 influenza virus particles, along with the somewhat larger HCMV virus were visually detected through a label-free method for the first time, using a high-resolution technology known as surface plasmon resonance microscopy.
In addition to identifying single virus particles, the technique permits the study of surface binding of viruses to specific antibodies. Critically, it also enables measurement of particle mass, with a detection limit rivaling conventional methods by three to four orders of magnitude. The work was conducted under the supervision of Nongjian (NJ) Tao, director of the Biodesign Institute's Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors.
Various methods have been applied for the detection of virus particles, Tao notes, citing a number of exotic techniques used to hunt single viruses or more often, to statistically evaluate groups of particles. Often, fluorescent dyes are affixed to molecules for the purpose of visualization, though such techniques come at a price. "The label may cause a change in the function of the molecule," Tao says, further stressing that labeled methods do not permit the direct observation of intrinsic physical characteristics (e.g., mass) of the viruses, displaying instead
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Arizona State University