Nanoscale techniques could quickly diagnose bioattacks

Interdisciplinary research at the Boston University College of Engineering is developing nanoscale techniques to detect and diagnose infectious diseases in a national defense capacity, both quickly and inexpensively.

The research is being conducted in collaboration with graduate students the BU School of Medicine and the BU Photonics Center, according to

“Our platform can be easily adapted for point-of-care diagnostics to detect a broad range of viral pathogens in resource-limited clinical settings at the far corners of the world, in defense and homeland security applications as well as in civilian settings such as airports,” assistant professor Hatice Altug said, according to

As a result of the combined research, the National Science Foundation approved, as of March 1, the creation of the Center for Biophotonic Sensors and Systems at the Photonics Center. The project is aimed at accelerating technology transfer and giving a boost to U.S. industrial competiveness.

The CBSS will be one of only 50 such centers across the country and the only one focused entirely on biophotonic sensors.

Professor Selim Ünlü and Altug have already managed to produce biosensor platform prototypes that offer improvements in pathogen detection, reports.

Together with the MITRE Corporation and professor Bennett Goldberg, Ünlü has produced the Interferometric Reflective Imaging Sensor, a nanoparticle device the size of a shoebox that can detect a single virus or other pathogens with remarkable speed.

In tests, IRIS was able to VSV a “safe-for-humans” virus genetically modified to model the behavior of hemorrhagic fever viruses like Ebola and Marburg. In an earlier experiment at BU, IRIS was able to detect and size a single, 100-nanometer H1N1 virus.

“What’s unique about our efforts to advance bio-detection capability is the ongoing collaboration we have with renowned infectious disease experts and access to experimental facilities at the School of Medicine,” Ünlü said, according to “The novel technologies we’re developing are applicable to a wide range of diseases.”