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Airdate: Sep 26, 2017
Scientist: Peter Vikesland

The Polio Detector

The Polio Detector
A low-cost means of detecting polio in the field is being developed by scientists, using nanotechnology.

The Polio Detector

Polio still occurs in several countries around the world. It's hard to control because there are people carrying the disease who don't know they have it. A low-cost means of detecting polio in the field is being developed by scientists, using nanotechnology. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Vikesland: We're trying to develop field-deployable detection device that you could almost think of as being similar to home pregnancy detection.

Peter Vikesland is a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech.

Vikesland: If poliovirus is present in a sample we see a color change. We are able to do this by using nanotechnology. So we take nano particles. These are very small, very fine particles of gold. And essentially if you have gold, and it's very different when it's in nanoparticle form than in the bulk gold we all think about. It actually has colors of reds and blues and whatnot.

Gold nanoparticles change color in different situations, such as when there's a high concentration of them grouped together.

Vikesland: We are taking nano particles and we are coating their surface with antibodies that our bodies produce against polio. And so by putting this antibody directly on the particle surface, it's going to be very specific for poliovirus. And then what happens is we take a polio virus and we have it be in water ,or we have it be associated with a piece of paper. And essentially these particles, they sense the poliovirus, stick to it and they change color. We can actually see that visually, or we can use some instrumentation to go and monitor that.

Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology and the National Science Foundation. You can hear this and previous programs on our podcast.