The recent technological advances in nanotechnology and micromachining of semi-conductor materials present themselves with new opportunities for cheap, small, and sensitive diagnostic devices capable of rapid and highly accurate detection of infectious agents. Surface derivitized cantilever structures have successfully been applied to the detection of DNA, proteins and cells, yet still fully realized at the levels of sensitivity required for practical applications. In addition, detection of viruses has not been fully explored with these technologies. The application of this technique in to detection of aerosolized virus particles is the main goal of the current proposal. This proposal brings together a group of truly interdisciplinary researchers from the fields of micro/nano-systems technology, molecular biology and virology, and bio-separations engineering to develop micro-cantilever-based virus detection techniques and systems which promises performance characteristics exceeding the sensitivity and specificity of PCR amplification assays and ELISAs. Calculated limits of detection of our approach are 10-17 to 10 -18 gm of mass change on the cantilever surface. This translates to the mass of single virus particles. When this method is coupled to currently available monoclonal antibodies against viruses, its specificity could surpass ELISAs since our technique doesn't rely on enzymatic reaction kinetics as does the former. The ability to detect and monitor-in real-time and continual basis- of viruses and their subtypes, particularly the most contagious viruses and bioterrorism agents, can have drastic implications in the confinement and management of the viral epidemics. The long-term objective of this application is to develop a micro-scale, robust, real-time monitoring device, based on micro-machined ultrathin cantilever arrays for the rapid and sensitive detection of infectious agents, particularly bioterrorism agents in field setting and in primary-patient care facilities. The array will be specific for specific pathogens and will have the sensitivity to detect a single virus or toxin molecule. During Phase I, the proposed effort aims to develop dielectrophoresis-based infectious agent trapping, separation and concentration device and a proof-of-principle demonstration for the detection of an air-borne virus on functionalized micro-scale cantilever. The performance value of the devices for trapping, separation, concentration and detection of aerosolized coronavirus particles will be assessed. During Phase II, this sensor design and manufacturing capabilities will be extended and scaled-up to other infectious agents in the form of integrated sensor arrays with capability for on-board signal processing.
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