Covid19, News, Technology

How Quantum Nanodiamonds May Catch HIV, Covid-19 Early

Abhinav Raj

Abhinav Raj, Writer

A University College London study revealed how quantum nanodiamonds could act as sensitive nanosensors, allowing for faster detection of diseases

A new research published by the University College London in the international science journal, Nature evidenced that the quantum sensing characteristic of nanodiamonds can be harnessed to detect ‘ultralow levels of virus’ in paper-based lateral flow diagnostic tests, allowing for rapid disease detection. 

Lateral flow tests or lateral immunochromatographic assays date back to mid-90s and have seen mainstream application owing to their user-friendly nature and tendency to provide rapid test results. Available as single-use, single-step testing tools that provide a diagnosis within minutes, lateral flow tests have achieved commercial appeal and are widely popular in detecting antigens or antibodies. A common application of lateral flow tests is the modern pregnancy test kit. 

A novel UCL research has concluded that nanodiamonds with a precise crystal defect in the structure creates a nitrogen-vacancy centre, which can function as a fluorescent biomarker. The crystal in question can signal the presence of HIV even in conditions of ultralow viral load, with a sensitivity “many thousands of times greater” than conventional gold nanoparticles.

“Our proof-of-concept study shows how quantum technologies can be used to detect ultralow levels of virus in a patient sample, enabling much earlier diagnosis,” said Lead author and Professor of Biomedical Nanotechnology at University College London, Rachel McKendry, in a statement

“We have focused on the detection of HIV, but our approach is very flexible and can be easily adapted to other diseases and biomarker types. We are working on adapting our approach to COVID-19. We believe that this transformative new technology will benefit patients and protect populations from infectious diseases.”

Lateral flow tests have already begun their expansion into the SARS-CoV-2 territory. In a recent development, the UK government purchased about 20 million lateral flow tests from pharma company Inova Medical Group

The pharma company claimed its proprietary Covid-19 lateral flow test averaged a sensitivity rating ranging between 88.75% and 99.17%. The test, however, can be much less accurate than the conventional Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test for Covid-19 diagnosis. 

“The closer you are to breaking the conflict between speed and accuracy the better, and unfortunately with some of these new technologies, that trade off will be there,” remarked DnaNudge co-founder and CEO Professor Chris Toumazou, in a dialogue with NS Medical devices. 

While the process of employing quantum nanodiamonds in disease diagnostic may be at a nascent phase, it shows the promise of a future where the diagnosis may no longer entail expensive lab equipment or the expertise of a virologist. Rapid and accessible diagnosis will equate to faster medical response, and may effectively increase the life expectancies of those afflicted. 

The future of disease diagnosis is brighter, thanks to nanodiamonds. Diamonds have found another aspect of life to brighten.