A group of scientists at University of Central Florida have developed a technique that would allow relief workers to test water sources that could be contaminated with the cholera toxin. In the test, a complex sugar dextran is coated onto iron oxide nanoparticles and then added to a sample of the water. If the cholera toxin is present, the toxin will bind to the nanoparticles’ dextran. This is because dextran looks similar to the cholera toxin receptor (GM1) found on cells’ surface in the victim’s gut.
According to researchers, the technique is faster than current detection methods and would be less expensive because these nanoparticles are cheap to make in large quantities. Additionally, both dextran and iron oxide are commonly used in other medical applications. Dextran is often used to prevent blood clots anticoagulant and in emergency treatments of hemorrhagic and traumatic shock. Iron oxide nanoparticles are used to treat anaemia and as MRI contrast agents to achieve improved anatomical imaging. Research findings recently appeared in the journal Bioconjugate Chemistry.
“It’s really quite amazing,” J Manuel Perez, assistant professor, University of Central Florida and the lead researcher on the project, has said. “It means we have a quicker diagnostic tool using a simple and relatively cheap sugar-nanoparticle combination.” According to Perez, early studies also show that the technique could someday be used to treat someone infected with cholera, which is caused by poor sanitation and dirty water, and potentially other diseases. [Source: UCF Today]