Sensing viruses by mechanical tension of DNA in responsive hydrogels


The rapid worldwide spread of severe viral infections, often involving novel modifications of viruses, poses major challenges to our health care systems. This means that tools that can efficiently and specifically diagnose viruses are much needed. To be relevant for a broad application in local health care centers, such tools should be relatively cheap and easy to use. Here we discuss the biophysical potential for the macroscopic detection of viruses based on the induction of a mechanical stress in a bundle of pre-stretched DNA molecules upon binding of viruses to the DNA. We show that the affinity of the DNA to the charged virus surface induces a local melting of the double-helix into two single-stranded DNA. This process effects a mechanical stress along the DNA chains leading to an overall contraction of the DNA. Our results suggest that when such DNA bundles are incorporated in a supporting matrix such as a responsive hydrogel, the presence of viruses may indeed lead to a significant, macroscopic mechanical deformation of the matrix. We discuss the biophysical basis for this effect and characterize the physical properties of the associated DNA melting transition. In particular, we reveal several scaling relations between the relevant physical parameters of the system. We promote this DNA-based assay for efficient and specific virus screening.

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@inproceedings{Shin2013SensingVB, title={Sensing viruses by mechanical tension of DNA in responsive hydrogels}, author={Jaeoh Shin and Andrey G. Cherstvy and Ralf Metzler}, year={2013} }