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Quantum nanodiamonds may help detect disease earlier

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Prof Rachel McKendry (i-sense Director), Dr Ben Miller (i-sense Postdoc) and Prof John Morton (UCLQ Director) discuss their new research using quantum nanodiamonds for early detection of infectious disease.

Paper-based lateral flow tests work the same way as a pregnancy test in that a strip of paper is soaked in a fluid sample and a change in colour – or fluorescent signal – indicates a positive result and the detection of virus proteins or DNA. They are widely used to detect viruses ranging from HIV to SARS-CoV-2 (lateral flow tests for COVID-19 are currently being piloted across England) and can provide a rapid diagnosis, as the results do not have to be processed in a lab.

The new research, published in Nature, found that low-cost nanodiamonds could be used to signal the presence of an HIV disease marker with a sensitivity many thousands of times greater than the gold nanoparticles widely used in these tests.