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Trinity College Dublin

Biosensors for Membrane Proteins

Nature Nanotechnology, Vol.  4, March 2009

Membrane proteins are the most important target for drug-discovery programmes, with half of all marketed drugs affecting membrane proteins. Finding a way to use these proteins in the detection of viruses in a liquid offers potential for the fast detection of illnesses, hazardous microbes and/or contamination.

Work carried out in CRANN, by Prof. Hegner’s research group, describes the development of a quantitative virus biosensor for protein membranes. This biosensor uses an array of resonating microcantilevers to measure virus interactions under physiological conditions. The sensing technique utilises nanomechanical silicon sensors coated with biomembranes that have been shown to detect the presence of viruses in liquid environments within minutes.

These microcantilever-based sensors are small in size, they only consume tiny amounts of immobilized material and analyte, and they are capable of multiplexed detection. Future applications for this technology are based on faster detection of viruses in liquid which can be exploited in the food, medical, health and pharmaceutical sectors.  In the future, development of large-scale, parallel cantilever sensors could be used as a tool for label-free and real-time functional
microarray analysis.


Figure: Ink-jet spotter nozzle is used to spot droplets (0.1 nl) on the cantilever surface and can be moved in all directions. The image shows the nozzle and a cantilever array as seen after functionalisation through the camera.