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A team of researchers has developed a new nanomechanical technique for fast, one-step, immune-affinity tests, which can quantify the immune response induced by different Covid-19 variants in serum. Their technique provides a new tool for tracking infection immunity over time and for analysing new vaccine candidates.

Led by Prof Martin Hegner, Principal Investigator in the Trinity Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN) and Trinity College Dublin’s School of Physics, the team’s specific quantitative assay enables direct classification of variant-binding properties for screening emerging variants.

The major advantage of the newly-developed technique with respect to (existing, commonly used) ELISA tests is that while it is equally sensitive — with added single amino-acid resolution — and able to directly detect multiple variants by in situ differential analysis, it can also do so in a mere fraction of the time, said the researchers.

Prof Hegner and his co-workers focused on Covid-19 variants of concern and their generated humoral immune response. Humoral immunity is an antibodymediated response that occurs when foreign material is detected in the body. Given that the Covid-19 virus has developed substantial mutations in the spike protein, this can undermine the efficacy of current vaccines and onoclonal antibody therapies.

The technology developed by Prof Hegner and his team can assist vaccine development studies in phase 1-3, with focus on comparing protection patterns and analysing novel vaccine candidates. The team’s findings have been published in the interdisciplinary journal Nanoscale Advances, which is a high-impact, peerreviewed journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry