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Gold Nanoparticles
Rapid Result Covid-19 Tests

Originally Posted on 6/18/2020 @ 2:07 pm EDT

by Steven Warrenfeltz

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Gold Nanoparticles and Rapid Result Covid-19 Testing - Title Graphic

Covid-19 Testing (1st Generation)

Most of us have heard, in the news, about the constant rhetoric about needing faster, and more accurate COVID-19 testing.

The two 1st generation tests on the market are the PRC (polymerase chain reaction) Diagnostic tests, and the other tests are Antibody tests.

Antibody tests are blood tests for those who have conquered the virus to see if their blood carries any antibodies that can help create a vaccine for COVID-19.

The PRC diagnosis tests are known as the original workhorse of the COVID-19 pandemic because they are used to see if a person has the virus, or not.

Both of these tests are reliable, however, both of these 1st-generation tests take hours to get a result, sometimes days, and only medical professionals can administer them.

That's where gold nanoparticles come into the picture researchers have already incorporated them in creating a better, and easier to administer 2nd Generation antibody test that doesn't demand that you give up a vile of blood to get a result.

There are some rapid result diagnostic test on the market, like this one from Abbott Labs, but it is unknown if they use gold nanoparticles in the testing process because it is proprietary information.  

However, there are several 2nd generation rapid result diagnostic tests that are in the project pipeline, that have disclosed how their testing works, by incorporating gold nanoparticles, there's more on that below.

The question is, why would gold nanoparticles be used in testing COVID-19, what makes them so special?

Special Properties of
Gold Nanoparticles
used for
COVID-19 Testing

Gold nanoparticles are microscopic particles of gold that have been revolutionizing medical research for more than 20 years.

In cancer research, for instance, gold nanoparticles have shown to have several qualities to become a better treatment for cancer with fewer side effects, if any?

For COVID-19, researchers are incorporating some or all of the following properties of gold nanoparticles for testing the virus.


In its physical form, Gold is known to be the most non-reactive of all the metals, it does not react with oxygen, which is why it does not tarnish.

Likewise, gold nanoparticles are bio-inert, when they are introduced to biological tissue, they do not initiate a response or cause an immunogenic reaction.

So, because gold nanoparticles are bio-inert, they do not contaminate or interfere with the result of the COVID-19 test.

Large Surface Area

Gold nanoparticles have a very Large Surface Area that gives researchers the ability to attach more molecules to them than other types of nanoparticles or bio-sensors.

Their large surface area makes it possible to adhere a large number of virus receptors on to a test strip engineered to detect COVID-19.

Stanford Medicine

A Stanford Medicine article, published in 2016, stated the following about the incredible surface area of gold nanoparticles:

Nanoscale particles also sport tremendous amounts of surface area as compared with larger particles.

A cube of gold with sides 1 centimeter long has a total surface area of 6 square centimeters.

But the same volume filled with gold nanospheres with diameters of 1 nanometer has a surface area greater than half a football field. - Small wonder: How nanotechnology could detect and treat cancer - Stanford Medicine

It's quantum physics, and for some, including myself, this fact about gold nanoparticles can be hard to wrap your head around.

However, the example from Standford Medicine makes it easier to understand how a small strip with gold nanoparticles on it can chemically interact and indicate that COVID-19 is present, from only a few drops of blood or saliva.

Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR)

Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) happens when focused light hits Gold Nanoparticles, making the electrons in nano gold to resonate and heat up.

This form of Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) is often used in cancer research to kill cancer cells. 

surface plasmon resonance

Now it is being used by researchers to find a more accurate way to create a rapid result COVID-19 diagnosis test.

These tests will likely work by embedding SARS-CoV-2 virus receptors onto a bed of Gold Nanoparticles. 

SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease, in regards to the way HIV (virus) causes AIDS (disease).

When light is focused, through a prism, onto the gold nanoparticles, they'll resonate, making the reflected light return at a certain frequency, confirming the presence of COVID-19.

This short video, here, offers you a glimpse into how these tests may work.

Researchers have stated that diagnostic tests that use this form of Surface Plasmon Resonance will be more accurate, less time consuming, and less expensive than the current PRC tests that are being used today.

Colloidal Gold &
Localized Surface Plasmon Resonance (LSPR)

Colloidal Gold

Colloidal Gold is gold nanoparticles that are suspended in a fluid, as you can see in the graphic, different sized gold nanoparticles create different colors.

Localized Surface Plasmon Resonance happens when an incident light source (the sun, a lamp, etc.) hits gold nanoparticles, causing the electrons in the nanoparticle to resonate.

The resonating gold nanoparticles reflect light at different wavelengths, creating a difference in color.

Furthermore, the color can come from multitudes of nanoparticles suspended in singular form, or in comparable sized clusters.

Localized Surface Plasmon Resonance

The graphic below offers an additional example of how Localized Surface Plasmon Resonance works.

In a 2013 study that tested the reflective properties of gold nanoparticles, researchers added sodium chloride (table salt) to colloidal gold.

The sodium chloride made the gold nanoparticles to bind together (d), changing the frequency and color of the reflected light (b).

Researchers that use this special property of gold nanoparticles, in COVID-19 tests, will use receptors of the virus to bind the nanoparticles together.

If the virus binds to the SARS-CoV-2 receptor, it will be an indication that the test is positive for COVID-19.

2nd Generation Antibody Tests

2nd generation antibody tests that are on the market today utilize some or all of the special properties of gold nanoparticles, reviewed above.

These antibody tests are called Lateral Flow ImmunoAssay (LFIA) tests, they are similar in to a home pregnancy test.

They are made with a strip of absorbent material with gold nanoparticles attached to it.

Attached to the gold nanoparticles are IgG and IgM COVID-19 antibodies, as the blood moves across the absorbent material, molecules in the blood attach to the gold nanoparticles.

If the blood has the antibodies in it, the gold nanoparticles will collect at each antibody receptor strip, on the test, indicating that the antibody's IgG = Immunoglobulin G and IgM = Immunoglobulin M, are present.

This short video, here, shows how these tests work.

Currently, there are several of these COVID-19 gold nanoparticle antibody tests on the market that help detect antibodies in the blood.

Below are a few of these by their manufactures:

2nd Generation -
Rapid Result Diagnostic Testing Pipeline

There are several research studies in-the-works to create a new Rapid Result Diagnosis test, using gold nanoparticles. 

Below is a list of those performing the research to provide a Rapid Result Diagnostic test, along with a small summary about their research, and a link to the article where the information was obtained.

The pipeline graphic below will indicate where the researchers are toward bringing their concept to commercialization.

clinical pipeline

Iceni Diagnostics, a company in the United Kingdom, hopes to have their rapid result diagnosis test out before the next flu season.

Their test will act much like the 2nd Generation Gold nanoparticle antibody tests, in that they are being made with Lateral Flow ImmunoAssay technology.

The Iceni Dianostics's tests will find COVID-19 by using gold nanoparticles coated with "carbohydrate-pathogen recognition to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus."

Researchers hope the test will hit the market by this fall, they also stated that the test could feasibly defer between the flu vs. coronavirus, which would be, as stated in the article below, "particularly timely."

See the full article about Iceni Diagnostics Rapid Result COVID-19 tests below.

Iceni Diagnostics Hopes for Home-Use Coronavirus Test this Autumn - Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

clinical pipeline

Next, in treating brain cancer, breaking the blood-brain barrier has been the one of the biggest challenges for medical science to overcome. 

However, Gold Nanoparticles have been shown in these multiple research studies that they can help in overcoming this barrier.

Now, cancer researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas who were studying how gold nanoparticles could penetrate deep into the brain, have found a way to to develop a rapid result COVID-19 test using gold nanoparticles.

The COVID-19 tests would use Surface Plasmon Resonance to get the results from the test within the time of a normal doctors visit.

Below is a small summary from the Science Daily article about how the test works.

In the testing method, gold nanoparticles are attached to antibody molecules that can recognize and bind with protein molecules found on the surfaces of viruses.

Researchers apply short laser pulses to activate the nanoparticles to generate nanoscale bubbles, or nanobubbles.

The accumulation of the nanobubbles signals the presence of a virus. - Science Daily

UT Dallas researchers say they're in final stages of creating rapid tests for respiratory viruses like COVID-19 - KHOU-11

Researchers' method holds promise for brain study, better tests for viruses - Science Daily

clinical pipeline

McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis has received Federal Funding to develop a Rapid Result COVID-19 test.

The researchers in this study are using a form of Surface Plasmon Resonance to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. 

Their tests, which are called "plasmonic-fluor," use light focused on gold nanoparticle fluorescent biosensors that glow at a very high frequency to indicate that SARS-CoV-2 is present.

At the bottom of the article (below), it states the technology is licensed to Auragent Bioscience, and that company is working on bringing 'plasmonic-fluors' COVID-19 testing to the market.

Federal Funding Awarded for Rapid COVID-19 Test - Technology Networks

clinical pipeline

Researchers at the Institute of Environmental Engineering, ETH Zurich in Switzerland, have developed a COVID-19 Rapid Result test using a form of Surface Plasmon Resonance called "Plasmonic Photothermal Sensing."

This testing platform revolves around using the DNA probes that recognize COVID-19 and attached them to gold nanoparticles.

The tests work by introducing the RNA of SARS-CoV-2 to DNA probes, if the two attach themselves, like a zipper, it will indicate the presence of the virus, whereas if the DNA and RNA do not attach, it would indicate a negative result.

Lasers are used to resonate the gold nanoparticles to make it harder for false positives, by shaking loose any imperfect matches.

New test may quickly, accurately detect novel coronavirus: Study - Deccan Chronicle

clinical pipeline

In this study, researchers at the University of Maryland have developed a way to test COVID-19 by using Local Surface Plasmon Resonance (LSPR).

In the research, they bind COVID-19 gene receptors to the gold nanoparticles, when viral RNA are introduced to the gene receptors the test changes color, confirming the presence of the virus. 

If the RNA was not present in the test the gold nanoparticle test would not change color.

The University of Maryland lead researcher stated the following about the early results of the study:

“Based on our preliminary results, we believe this promising new test may detect RNA material from the virus as early as the first day of infection." - Dipanjan Pan, PhD

Learn more about the University of Maryland School of Medicine's research from the two links below.

Researchers Develop Experimental Rapid COVID-19 Test Using Innovative Nanoparticle Technique - news wire

Selective Naked-Eye Detection of SARS-CoV-2 Mediated by N Gene Targeted Antisense Oligonucleotide Capped Plasmonic Nanoparticles - ACS Publications

clinical pipeline

Ming Wang, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northeastern University, has converted his proprietary Diabetes monitor into a rapid result COVID-19 testing device.

The COVID-19 test uses saliva to find its results, which can give an accurate diagnosis as little as three minutes.

The article, below, states how the testing device works.

"The biosensor within the device is designed to use gold nanoparticles to read tiny signals produced as the coronavirus interacts with key protein molecules to hijack human cells and replicate into millions more of itself. The sensor then reads the signals released by those interactions to detect the coronavirus."  - Medical Express (May 2020)

Can a new tool for diabetes patients solve the problem of COVID-19 testing? - Medical Express

clinical pipeline

New COVID-19 Treatment?

On the treatment side of COVID-19, recently, the University of Louisville announced a licensing deal with Carlsbad, California-based Qualigen Inc.

The deal involves the college's cancer technology that could treat Covid-19, which uses DNA-coated gold nanoparticles to treat cancers.

The school announced in April that their cancer research also blocked the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, from entering cells and replicating.

The COVID-19 test is still in the early stages, however, the CEO of Qualigen Michael Poirier, stated the following about the research. “This is a critically important effort that could provide much-needed help to COVID-19 patients worldwide.”

U of L licenses promising tech in Covid-19 fight - Louisville Business First

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