Scientists have developed a method for rapid detection of pathogens using microscopic magnetic spheres

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a method for using Dynabeads to rapidly detect pathogens in drinking water or blood samples. Dynabeads are microscopic magnetic spheres that are coated with antibodies and used to isolate specific cell types and proteins. With current laboratory technology, it can take days to process samples for pathogens. However, a new method developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology specialists uses Raman spectroscopy to detect Dynabeads in a liquid sample in less than one second.

The power of Dynabeads

Dynabeads were invented in 1976 and consist of a magnetic iron core coated with a polymer shell. These beads are coated with different types of antibodies that bind to specific target molecules in liquid samples. By placing a magnet on the outside of a sample tube, scientists can collect and analyze the target molecules that have stuck to the Dynabeads. This technology is widely used in a variety of scientific applications, but pathogen detection remains a labor-intensive process.

Rapid detection using Raman spectroscopy

MIT researchers have discovered that Raman spectroscopy can be used to detect Dynabeads in a liquid sample by analyzing the unique way beads scatter light. This characteristic “Raman signature” can be detected in less than one second, allowing for rapid detection of pathogens. The team is currently developing the technology to separate free, unbound beads from those associated with pathogenic cells. The handheld device will then distinguish between the Raman signatures of these two types, allowing users to determine the presence of a pathogen in a sample.

Promising results

In laboratory tests conducted, the MIT team successfully used this method to detect Salmonella bacteria in water samples in as little as half a second. This rapid detection capability is of great importance to public health, as even small amounts of pathogens can cause clinical symptoms. The ability to quickly detect the presence of contaminants in drinking water or body fluids can prevent the spread of disease and improve patient outcomes.

Professor Loza Tadesse, one of the lead researchers on the project, emphasizes the significance of the new method: “This is something that can be used to quickly get a positive or negative answer: is there contamination or not? After all, even small amounts of pathogens can cause clinical symptoms.” The development of this technology could revolutionize pathogen detection, making it faster, more efficient and more affordable.

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