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HIV Detection via a Carbon Nanotube RNA Sensor

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journal contribution
posted on 03.05.2019, 21:29 by Jackson D. Harvey, Hanan A. Baker, Michael V. Ortiz, Alex Kentsis, Daniel A. Heller
Viral illnesses remain a significant concern in global health. Rapid and quantitative early detection of viral oligonucleotides without the need for purification, amplification, or labeling would be valuable in guiding successful treatment strategies. Single-walled carbon nanotube-based sensors recently demonstrated optical detection of small, free oligonucleotides in biofluids and in vivo, although proteins diminished sensitivity. Here, we discovered an unexpected phenomenon wherein the carbon nanotube optical response to nucleic acids can be enhanced by denatured proteins. Mechanistic studies found that hydrophobic patches of the denatured protein chain interact with the freed nanotube surface after hybridization, resulting in enhanced shifting of the nanotube emission. We employed this mechanism to detect an intact HIV in serum, resulting in specific responses within minutes. This work portends a route toward point-of-care optical detection of viruses or other nucleic acid-based analytes.