VALENCIA, Spain-- Researchers in Spain have developed a new method for detecting cocaine at very low concentrations. The detection system can also identify small amounts of mycoplasma.
The new method combines two biosensor technologies, gated mesoporous silica nanoparticles and SERS spectroscopy. Mesoporous silica nanoparticles are used to deliver dyes into targeted molecules, while SERS spectroscopy allows scientists to measure the absorption of electron scattering on a substrate textured by gold nanoparticles.
Scientists from the Technical University of Valencia and Carlos III Health Institute partnered to develop the new detection system.
"In the presence of mycoplasma or cocaine, the pores of the nanoparticles unblock, letting in the dye that interacts with gold nanotriangle," Ramón Martínez Máñez, director of the Inter-university Research Institute for Molecular Recognition and Technological Development, explained in a news release. "It is this interaction that is detected by SERS spectroscopy. The concentration of the substance being detected is proportional to the signal detected."
The technology could inspire more effective drug tests. The rate of cocaine use in Spain is the highest in Europe and one of the highest in the world.
"Although cocaine production and distribution are restricted and illegal in most contexts, it is a powerful nervous system stimulant that causes strong addiction among consumers, frequently leading to serious health as well as social and legal problems," researchers wrote in their newly published study.
Mycoplasma are a genus of bacteria that lack a cell wall surrounding the cell membrane. Because most antibiotics attack pathogens via the cell wall, many types of mycoplasma are drug-resistant. The detection of small concentrations of mycoplasma may prove helpful to research into human and animal health.
"Never before has SERS spectroscopy been combined with gated mesoporous silica materials for this kind of tests," added Luis M. Liz-Marzán of the Basque Centre for Cooperative Research in Biomaterials. "The results obtained so far are very positive and point to the possibility of this method being used in the detection of other pathogens."
By Brooks Hays - UPI/Oct. 3, 2016
Photo: Juan Gaertner, shutterstock