(EurekaAlert) The quantum sensing abilities of nanodiamonds can be used to improve the sensitivity of paper-based diagnostic tests, potentially allowing for earlier detection of diseases such as HIV, according to a study led by UCL researchers in the i-sense McKendry group.
The new research, published in Nature, found that low-cost nanodiamonds could be used to signal the presence of an HIV disease marker with a sensitivity many thousands of times greater than the gold nanoparticles widely used in these tests.
This greater sensitivity allows lower viral loads to be detected, meaning the test could pick up lower levels of disease or detect the disease at an earlier stage, which is crucial for reducing transmission risk of infected individuals and for effective treatment of diseases such as HIV.
The research team are working on adapting the new technology to test for COVID-19 and other diseases over the coming months. A key next step is to develop a hand-held device that can “read” the results, as the technique was demonstrated using a microscope in a laboratory. Further clinical evaluation studies are also planned.
Lead author Professor Rachel McKendry, Professor of Biomedical Nanotechnology at UCL and Director of i-sense EPSRC IRC, said: “Our proof-of-concept study shows how quantum technologies can be used to detect ultralow levels of virus in a patient sample, enabling much earlier diagnosis.