"The current tests take a long time," Ruchhoeft said. "If we can build a diagnostic tool that mimics something like the pregnancy test in speed and ease of use, we could create a platform for rapid detection of this virus and other pathogens."
The tool Ruchhoeft and Willson are building will rely on the disease protein/antibody relationship that occurs in the human body. As with all diseases, when an individual is infected with the Norwalk virus, the human immune system creates antibody proteins that bond only with proteins that are specific to that disease.
Under Ruchhoeft and Willson's plan, a biological sample from a suspected Norwalk victim will be placed on a glass slide covered with Norwalk antibodies provided by BCM. An attempt will be made to wash away the sample, but if the virus is present in the sample, it will bond with the antibody and remain on the slide.
The next step of the test relies on retroreflectors, specially designed cubes that reflect light back to its point of origin, that are used on the macroscale for items such as reflective vests and lane markers on roads. Ruchhoeft, however, will create retroreflectors that measure just a few micrometers wide.
Three sides of the reflectors will be covered with reflective material and will be populated with the Norwalk antibody. These retroreflectors will be dispensed onto the slide. If Norwalk is present on the slide from the previous protein/antibody bond, the retroreflectors will bond with it. If not, they will all be washed away when the slide is rinsed.
An optical device will then shine a strong light on the slide. If, due to the protein/antibody bond, the retroreflectors remain on the slide, they will clearly reflect the light, indicating the p
Source:University of Houston