The idea is to create a low-cost, simple, rapid in-field diagnostic tool for the detection of the Rift Valley Fever virus. We know what you are probably thinking: what on earth is Rift Valley Fever and why did we choose this particular virus? We’ll begin by answering the first question.
Rift Valley Fever is a viral disease commonly observed in domesticated animals (such as sheep, goats, cattle & buffalo), however it also has the ability to infect and cause illness in humans. The disease was first detected in livestock in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley (hence the name) in the early 20th century.
Throughout this week, we have been trying to adapt and optimise the formation of the AuNPs-alginate gels. We have been successful in forming gold layers onto of the alginate gels which can been seen in figure 1. However, the main problem we keep on encountering is that the gold nano particles are too embedded into the alginate matrix.
This is a problem because at some point we require the gold nanoparticles to attach to the antibodies. To resolve this issue we have been varying the concentration of the alginate, calcium chloride, chloroauric acid and reducing agents (both L-ascorbic acid and sodium citrate respectively).
Week three has been loosely focused on forming alginate gel blocks with a gold nanoparticle top layer. This will hopefully allow the antibodies easier access to the nanoparticles in any potential future conjugation process. We say loosely because it has also been a week where we have learnt to use and make 3D printed craft files and implementing them into our gel making process. So on Tuesday (14/07) we 3D printed our first ever mold. The mold contains 9 wells of increasing dimensions (3×3, 4×4, 5×5, 6×6, 7×7, 8×8, 9×9, 10×10, 11×11 & 12×12 mm respectively) but constant depth of 3mm.
On the 16th July, we booked to use the Transmission Electron Microscope (TEM) to characterise the gold nanoparticles we had been synthesising since week 1. Transmission Electron Microscopy is a microscopy technique which allows us to measure small objects (to the order of a few angstrom 10-10 m) by focussing a thin beam of electrons onto a sample. The beam of electrons travel through the sample and depending on the density of the sample present, some of the electrons are scattered. The unscattered electrons hit a fluorescent screen at the bottom of the microscope and give rise to a image of the sample.
The aim of our research over the next few weeks is to produce a diagnostic tool that can successfully determine the presence of Rift Valley Fever by an observable colour change. To achieve this we would like to conjugate the antibody to the gold nanoparticles using a PEG-linker.
So far the biggest hurdle of our 8-week project has been trying to locate Rift Valley Fever (RVF) antibodies for a price within our £1,500 budget with a short enough shipping time. For example, some suppliers charge £268 for 100µg?! Therefore it is imperative for us to precisely calculate the amount of antibody we will need.
After a successful (one can only hope) exam season, the academic year has officially ended but not quite yet for The Velox Group. It’s the beginning of July and we are back in labs getting ready for a summer of exciting research. The first few days have been fairly administrative with methodology, budget and overall plan of action needing to be sorted and cleared by Ramon before getting started. After sorting out our orders, it was time to wait for the deliveries. Once the first delivery arrived, we were able to practice the synthesis gold nano particles confirming their identity using UV-Vis.
Meet the team:
Hello 🙂 I’m Lauren and I’ve recently completed my first year of chemistry here at Imperial. My interests include cooking, singing and of course science. I’m very excited about our research and look forward to sharing our progress with you through this blog over the forthcoming weeks!
Hello 🙂 I’m Jakub and I’m also a first year chemist.
Hi 🙂 I’m Cameron and I’m a first year biologist.
Together we make up The Velox Group. Velox is a latin word meaning swift and the aim of our research is to form a rapid (velox) test for a disease called Rift Valley Fever.