Understanding the Virus Causing COVID-19

Illustration of SARS-CoV-2 (credit: US CDC)

COVID-19 is a disease of the respiratory system caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2.  The SARS-CoV-2 virus consist of a single RNA strand surrounded by a membrane envelope containing three different types of proteins, including the characteristic spike proteins, or S-proteins, that allow the virus to attach to human cells.  When the virus enters the lungs, the body summons white blood cells to kill virus-infected cells.  However, this immune battle clogs the lungs with fluid, producing the symptoms associated with this disease: coughing, fever, trouble breathing, and persistent pain in the chest.  While most patients recover, others experience a sharp decrease in oxygen levels in their blood, which leads to death. As of May 30, 2020, COVID-19 disease has resulted in 362,705 deaths worldwide, over 5.8 million infections, and vast economic devastation.  Scientist are racing to better understand this novel virus in order to develop effective vaccines and methods of detection.

Tools for studying viral proteins

Platypus Technologies offers gold-coated substrates for advanced analytical techniques that aid in our understanding of the viral proteins of COVID-19.  These techniques include atomic force microscopy (AFM), surface plasmon resonance (SPR), infrared (IR) and Raman spectroscopy.

We provide gold-coated biosensors chips for SPR, the technique of choice for studying and measuring the binding of COVID-19 proteins to specific antibodies.  The surface of the gold produces electromagnetic oscillations (plasmons), and the magnitude of these oscillations changes when, for example, a protein binds strongly to an antibody immobilized at the gold surface. SPR has also been used to develop new serum-based tests for coronaviruses.  In addition, our company has years of experience serving as an OEM provider of gold-coated optical prisms for other SPR companies.

Ultra-flat gold surfaces provide a pristine, Au(111) substrate that is ideal for single molecule IR spectroscopy, a technique used for determining the specific secondary structure of proteins.  The gold surface immobilizes the individual proteins, which are only a few nanometers in size, making it easier for scientists to manipulate these nanoscale objects.  The ultra-flat surface of the gold enables high-resolution AFM imaging, and efficient light reflection for IR nano-spectroscopy.

In addition, the team at Platypus Technologies has serviced original ideas for development of virus sensors.  Using gold surfaces decorated with antibodies and liquid crystal films, the company demonstrated successful prototypes of diagnostic assays for detection of viruses in blood serum.  These assays are rapid, simple and low-cost methods to detect viruses.

Platypus Technologies aims to provide Scientists with the tools and services to succeed. We are proud to contribute to the ongoing fight against COVID-19 by offering solutions that can speed up the process of studying virus proteins. To learn more about our product and services, or discuss specific partnership opportunities, contact us today.