Air Force

Use of aptamers for capturing and reporting the presence of a pathogen

DNA oligonucleotide and quantum dot complex for the detection of bacteria, viruses, proteins, or other targets

Medical & Biotechnology

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Quenching and dequenching the DNA capture element system. The fluorescence is determined by a plate reader.

Aptamers are single-stranded oligonucleotides with a length of tens of nucleotides, exhibiting high affinity and specificity towards any given target molecule. They have highly defined tertiary structures, which allow them to form stable and specific complexes with a range of different targets, including amino acids, proteins, and whole viruses.

Air Force researchers have developed a way to use DNA aptamers and quantum dots for the detection of bacteria, viruses, proteins, or other targets. The quantum dot/aptamer complex comprises one strand of a duplex DNA molecule linked to the quantum dot by an amide bond. It does not matter if the aptamer or the complementary strand is attached.

However, the strand that is not attached contains a non-radiative quencher. Upon addition of the aptamers’ target, the amount of light emitted by the quantum dots increases. The complex and method can also be used in reverse, with the aptamers’ target immobilized on a microliter plate. The system is extremely simple to use and has several advantages over the traditional ELISA test. In contrast with a conventional immunoassay, the new assays use DNA aptamers instead of antibodies in an immunoassay-like procedure. These aptamer assays do not require the formation of a sandwich, and binding of the ligand of interest causes an increase in signal from the fluorescent marker.

This US patent 8,790,877 is related to US patents 9,273,345 and 8,318,438.

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