Nanoparticles can be engineered to recognise a specific disease

In a process known as ‘biobarcode detection’, nanoparticles can be made containing antibodies that recognise a disease marker protein – a protein found only in a disease state, or at higher levels in a disease state.

When the protein is present in a sample, extraction of the magnetic particles also pulls out the gold nanoparticles. The DNA on the gold nanoparticle can be amplified, so very small amounts of protein can be detected. Potentially, nanoparticles with different antibody and DNA fragment combinations could be used to search for multiple disease marker proteins (hence the ‘biobarcode’).

  1. Magnetic nanoparticles (red) and gold nanoparticles (yellow) are coated with antibodies (white arrow heads) specific to a disease marker protein. The gold nanoparticle is also coated with DNA fragments.
  2. The nanoparticles are mixed with a patient's blood or another sample. Both the magnetic and the gold nanoparticles bind the disease marker protein (green star).
  3. A magnet is used to extract the nanoparticles from the sample. The DNA on the gold nanoparticle (strands on the yellow circle) can be amplified and detected (light bulb) giving indication of the disease in the sample.

Glen McBeth

About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Nanoscience’ in June 2005 and reviewed and updated in August 2014.

Medicine, Health, infection and disease, Biotechnology and engineering
Education levels:
16–19, Continuing professional development