3D Printed Electrodes Detect COVID-19 Antibodies in Seconds

January 12, 2021
Killian Meara

Killian Meara, assistant editor for ContagionLive, joined the MJH Life Sciences team in November 2020. He graduated from William Paterson University with a degree in liberal studies, and concentrations in history and psychology. He enjoys film, reading, and pretending he is a good cook. Follow him on Twitter @krmeara or email him at [email protected]

Ability for rapid diagnosis to treat and prevent communicable diseases is a public health issue that goes beyond the current pandemic.

Results from a recent paper published in the journal Advanced Materials, conducted by investigators at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, report on an advanced nanomaterial-based biosensing platform that detects antibodies specific to the SARS-CoV-2 virus in seconds. The testing platform will also be able to help in quantifying the immunological responses in patients to the new vaccines with extreme accuracy.

The team of investigators employed an additive manufacturing technology called aerosol jet 3D printing to create small, inexpensive gold micropillar electrodes at a nanoscale using aerosol droplets that are thermally sintered together. The electrodes have an enhanced electrochemical reaction and a rough, irregular surface that provides a larger area for antibodies to latch onto antigens which are coated on. The shape allows for more proteins to load onto the micropillars for detection and results in highly accurate and rapid results.

The sensor on the electrodes was regenerated using a low pH chemistry via elution of antibody-antigen immunoaffinity within 1 minute of testing, which allowed for up to 10 successive readings with exactness.

"We utilized the latest advances in materials and manufacturing such as nanoparticle 3D printing to create a device that rapidly detects COVID-19 antibodies," Rahul Panat, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon and co-author on the study said.

Due to the binding reaction between the antibody and the antigen that is used in the device being highly selective, the test has a very low rate of error. In addition, because the testing platform is a generic one, it has the potential to be applied in the rapid detection of biomarkers for other infectious diseases like HIV, Ebola and Zika, aiding in the control and spread of them.

"Because our technique can quantify the immune response to vaccination, it is very relevant in the current environment," Panat said.