By folding snippets of DNA into the shape of a five-pointed star using structural DNA nanotechnology, US and Chinese researchers have created a trap that captures Dengue virus as it floats in the bloodstream
Once bound to the virus, the star starts to fluoresce, making it easily visible in a blood test.
It is the most sensitive test for the mosquito-borne diseases yet devised, the researchers say. As a bonus it is non-toxic and naturally clears from the body.
And it could be effective against many other viruses, they write in the journal Nature Chemistry, because in order to infect their host, all viruses must first latch onto a cell wall and disgorge their genetic instructions into the cell.
The hope is that it also could be adapted to actually kill the viruses it snares.
“This is more sensitive than any other way of detecting Dengue, beating the clinical test by more than 100-fold,” says corresponding author Xing Wang from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, US.
“The binding is tight, and the specificity is high, enabling us to distinguish the presence of Dengue on the first day of infection.”
The spherical surface of Dengue, like the closely related Zika virus, is studded with multiple latch points to catch a cell surface.
By superimposing various DNA nanostructural shapes onto images of the virus, the team settled on a five-pointed “DNA star” as the best match between points on the DNA shape and latch points on the virus.