During the CoVid-19 pandemic, one of the most challenging aspects is the lack of testing to detect and trace infections and implementing a strategy to carefully re-open the country and economic activity. The lack of testing has resulted in uncertainties about public health policies. Testing is necessary not only for diagnosis but also for tracking to control the pandemic. This work is based on non-traditional techniques for the detection of virus in infected patients. The project will develop an alternative method based on the advances of physics and understanding of the quantum mechanical aspects of interaction of light with matter. The technique will be based on recent discoveries in nanotechnology and solid-state physics, allowing the development of spectroscopy techniques to detect the SARs-Cov-2 virus. The method, named Single Molecule Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SM-SERS), If successful, will allow a fast, inexpensive, and much more precise and reliable method to detect infections. The method is based on the detection the S proteins of the virus, which participate in the cell infection. The ability of SM-SERS to detect down to one molecule of protein will allow early detection of infection and follow up of patients who recover from the illness. In addition, further analysis of the SM-SERS data will help to understand changes on the virus proteins and can help in the development of antiviral drugs.
During the CoVid-19 pandemic, one of the most challenging aspects has been the lack of testing to detect and trace infections. The limitations in quantities and quality of test kits have resulted in uncertainties about public health policies. Testing is necessary not only for diagnosis but also for tracking to control the pandemic. The practical difficulties to increase the number of available test kits involve, among other things, difficulty in production of the chemicals needed for the test. The most used test, technically known as RT-qPCR, is costly, has a long turnaround time and, although it is highly sensitive, produces many false negatives and are based on biochemical methods. This work is based on the Raman spectroscopy in its SM-SERS modality. The method is based on amplification of the inelastically scattered light by localized surface plasmons on metal nanoparticles. The main goal will be to establish a Raman signature of the spike glycoprotein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that can be used to develop a detection test. Previous research in the PI's group indicates that tests based on analysis of sialylated glycoproteins have high sensitivity, specificity, and low percentage of false negatives. The project will develop a new type of plasmonic nanoparticles combined with ionic liquids that will improve the nanoparticle delivery to solutions containing the virus. A second interest will be to study the fine peak structure, which is related to morphological changes in the proteins. This will be useful for development of antiviral drugs and the basic understanding of the biology of the virus.
This Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant supports research that will develop a new method for viral testing with funding from the CARES Act managed by the Condensed Matter Physics Program in the Division of Materials Research of the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.