Micro-cantilevers, which look like springboards are .5 millimetres long and 1 micrometre thick and bend in response to different forces. By measuring changes in the frequencies at which these tiny planks vibrate, researchers have turned them into super-sensitive virus-weighing scales.
The researchers used the protein receptor, FhuA of Escherichia coli known to bind to the T5 virus. Professor Hegner and his colleagues coated the cantilever surfaces with a molecular layer of FhuA proteins sensitised to recognise molecules from the environment. When the array was submerged in a T5 containing fluid, the researchers detected the virus binding to FhuA by measuring shifts in the vibrational frequency of the cantilevers.
Commenting on the significance of the discovery, Professor Hegner said: “These findings could lead to more specific blood tests and also will enable portable diagnostic devices in a hospital environment for a range of testing not just viruses, but also genomic markers and marker proteins.”