Dengue fever is spread by mosquitoes that carry the Dengue virus. Early detection of an infection is important, but currently it is difficult to achieve in the field. Moreover, treatment options are limited and blood transfusions are required to save many patients.
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have now employed “DNA nanoarchitecture,” which is a way to bind short pieces of DNA into structures, to create traps for the Dengue virus to fall into. These traps also fluoresce when they catch the target virus, allowing for incredibly sensitive detection of Dengue. Moreover, the technology may be used to catch and deactivate the Dengue virus and many other viruses in an entirely novel way.
“This is more sensitive than any other way of detecting Dengue, beating the clinical test by more than 100 fold,” said Xing Wang, the corresponding author of the study appearing in Nature Chemistry. “The binding is tight and the specificity is high, enabling us to distinguish the presence of Dengue on the first day of infection.”
The Rensselaer team created special structures out of folded DNA strings that have the overall shape of a five pointed star. They also have a bunch of points that are the mirror opposite of the latch points that the Dengue virus uses to attach itself to living cells. The virus is naturally attracted to these star-shaped structures and snaps into them.
To really provide diagnostic utility, the DNA structures were designed so that once the virus was bound to them, they would become naturally fluorescent and can be seen using a microscope.
Image courtesy Xing Wang