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Scientists design simple dipstick test for cocaine, other drugs

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a simple "dipstick" test for detecting cocaine and other drugs in saliva, urine or blood serum. The test is based upon DNA-gold nanoparticle technology, and can be packaged in user-friendly kits similar to those used for home pregnancy tests.

"Building upon our earlier work with lead (Pb) sensors, we constructed colorimetric sensors that are based on the lateral flow separation of aptamer-linked nanostructures," said Yi Lu, a chemistry professor at the U. of I., and a researcher at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.

"The new sensors offer a quick and convenient test that can be utilized by first responders or emergency room staff to quickly screen individuals for a variety of drugs and other chemicals." Lu said.

Aptamers are single-stranded nucleic acids that can bind to specific molecules in three-dimensions. For each molecular target, such as cocaine, a corresponding aptamer can be selected from a large DNA library.

By using lateral flow devices as platforms to separate aptamer-linked nanoparticle aggregates, Lu, postdoctoral researcher Juewen Liu and graduate student Debapriya Mazumdar created highly sensitive and selective colorimetric sensors that mimic litmus paper tests. The researchers describe their work in a paper accepted for publication in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition, and posted on its Web site.

"Our lateral flow devices take advantage of the difference in size between dispersed and aggregated gold nanostructures," Lu said. "This provides critical control for the performance of the devices."

The lateral flow device consists of four overlapping pads ?wicking, conjugation, membrane and absorption. The appropriate aptamer-linked nanoparticle aggregates are placed on the conjugation pad, streptavidin is applied as a thin line to the membrane pad, and the device is then dried.

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Source:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


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