Tiffany Tang

 -Daniel Lab-

Development of an Electroactive Platform for Detection for Virus Fusion to Host Membranes

Every year, new virus outbreaks are reported and have potential to cause pandemics with devastating socio-economic impacts, with COVID-19 serving as a prime example. These outbreaks alluded to the importance of rapid viral sensing strategies to mitigating its impact and spread. PCR, one of the most common viral detection methods, is a specific and sensitive detection technique, but requires trained personnel and sophisticated machinery, slowing response time. An ideal detection method should integrate the specificity and sensitivity with the speed necessary to diagnosis patients rapidly.

Enveloped viruses (such as influenza virus, coronavirus) enter host cells by binding to a receptor and then fusing its viral membrane to the host cell membrane to insert its genome. We propose a novel sensing platform that leverages the virus’s propensity to bind specifically and fuse to a host cell membrane and detect for changes to host cell membrane resulting from viral fusion. We can couple a biomimetic membrane on top of an electrically conductive polymer (PEDOT:PSS) to probe the electrical responses of the system once viral fusion has occurred. Using influenza virus as a proof-of-principle, we first show that we can form the biomimetic membrane incorporating the influenza viral receptor on PEDOT:PSS. We then visualize influenza virus fusion on PEDOT:PSS and demonstrate that the fusion kinetics are comparable to those on a non-conductive polymer. Lastly, using electrical impedance spectroscopy, we provide evidence that influenza viral fusion causes a detectable change in electrical response, demonstrating the possibility of exploiting viral membrane fusion for diagnostics.