Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have developed a graphene-based sensor that can quickly detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The system includes graphene sheets that bind to an antibody against the spike viral protein. When viral particles bind to antibodies, the vibrational properties of graphene sheets change, and researchers can measure this by Raman spectroscopy. The test lasts less than five minutes and can provide another useful tool to fight COVID-19.
Although vaccination programs are on the rise, the global fight against COVID-19 is still a long way off. Even in countries that were the first leaders in vaccine launches, such as the UK, the new variants threaten to derail plans to ease restrictions. In many regions of the world, vaccination campaigns have not yet really begun, with COVID-19 still haunting the population.
Fast and reliable testing is still an unmet need, with new technologies welcome. The latter device exploits the vibrational properties of graphene to detect COVID-19. “We have been developing graphene sensors for many years. In the past, we have built detectors for cancer cells and ALS. It is difficult to imagine a more urgent application than to help curb the spread of the current pandemic, “said Vikas Berry, a researcher involved in the study, in a UIC press release.” There is a clear need in society. of better ways to quickly and accurately detect COVID and its variants, and this research has the potential to make a real difference. The modified sensor is highly sensitive and selective for the COVID and is fast and economic ”.
The system is based on the vibrations of the carbon atoms that form graphene sheets, which can be measured by Raman spectroscopy. By incorporating antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus into graphene, the researchers transformed it into a viral sensor and observed obvious vibrational differences when graphene was exposed to a sample of artificial saliva containing the virus. In contrast, the sensor did not react in the same way to a blank sample, nor to other coronaviruses, such as the virus causing Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, which demonstrated its selectivity.
“Graphene is only one atom thick, so a molecule on its surface is relatively huge and can produce a specific change in its electron energy,” Berry said. “In this experiment, we modified the graphene with an antibody and, in essence, calibrated it to react only with the SARS-CoV-2 ear protein. Using this method, graphene could be used similarly to detect variants of COVID-19 “.