In a series of studies, UGA researchers have developed a single-step method that can detect viruses, bacteria and chemical contaminants:
"The results are unambiguous and quickly give you a high degree of specificity," said senior author Yiping Zhao, professor of physics in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and director of the university's Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center.
Zhao and his co-authors—doctoral students Jing Chen and Justin Abell and professor Yao-wen Huang of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences—used nanotechnology to combine two well-known techniques and create their new diagnostic test. Their results appear in the early online edition of the journal Lab on a Chip and were recently presented at the SPIE Defense, Security and Sensing conference.
The first component of their two-in-one system uses a technique known as surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy, or SERS, which measures the change in frequency of a laser as it scatters off a compound. Every compound displays a series of distinctive changes in frequency, or Raman shifts, that are as unique as a fingerprint. The signal produced by Raman scattering is inherently weak, but Zhao and his colleagues have arrayed silver nanorods 1,000 times finer than the width of a human hair at a precise angle to significantly amplify the signal. In previous studies with Ralph Tripp in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine and chemist Richard Dluhy in the Franklin College, they demonstrated that the use of SERS with silver nanorods could identify viruses such as HIV and RSV isolated from infected cells.
Mutidisciplinary units like NanoSEC and the department of infectious diseases continue to facilitate collaborations that are paying dividends. UGA indeed has fostered many such collaborative efforts all over campus - from the CCCRC to Developmental Biology. The knowledge and intuition of these scientists can be leveraged for much greater gains than they are capable of separately. Franklin College units are often the fulcrum for these collaborations, selflessly sharing scarce resources, staff and lab space in a manner that directly complements the tireless efforts of faculty like Zhao and Huang. Congratulations these scientists and graduate students and we look forward to future innovations based on this new work.
Image of University of Georgia researchers, left to right, Yao-Wen Huang, Jing Chen, Yiping Zhao and Justin Abell stand in front of an electron beam evaporator at the UGA Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center. Sam Fahmy