Theron et al. in Nanotechnology in Water Treatment Applications
In contrast to gold nanoparticles and QDs, magnetic nanoparticles have not been used in many biological applications. Nevertheless, advances in the synthesis of monodispersed magnetic nanoparticles, ranging in size from 2 to 20 nm, has provided a basis from which to explore applications of magnetic nanoparticles in diagnostics. Magnetic nanoparticles are produced from materials that can be strongly attracted by magnets or be magnetized. They can be prepared in the form of single domain or superparamagnetic (Fe3
), greigite (Fe3
), maghemite (gamma-Fe2
), and various types of ferrites (MeO.Fe2
, where Me = Ni, Co, Mg, Zn, Mn, etc.). Bound to biorecognition molecules, magnetic nanoparticles can be used to facilitate the separation, purification and concentration of different biomolecules. To do so, biorecognition molecules such as antibodies can be immobilized on the surface of magnetic nanoparticles through covalent or electrostatic interactions. After reacting these magnetic nanoparticles with sample solutions, targeted molecules can be bound by or captured on the surface of these magnetic nanoparticles. By applying a magnetic field, these nanoparticles can subsequently be concentrated and separated from the bulk solution and identified.
Biofunctional magnetic nanoparticles, in which thiolated vancomycin was attached to FePt nanoparticles, have been used to capture and detect of a wide range of bacteria at very low concentrations within 60 min. These included capturing and detection of Staphylococcus aureus
at 8 cfu/ml, S. epidermidis
at 10 cfu/ml, Enterococcus faecalis
at 26 cfu/ml, and E. coli
at 15 cfu/ml. Although the sensitivity achieved using magnetic nanoparticles is comparable to PCR-based assays, the direct capture protocol is faster than PCR when the bacterium count is low since it obviates the need for pre-enrichment of bacteria through culturing. In an alternative approach, Ho et al. reported combining biofunctional magnetic nanoparticles with matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry (MALDI-MS) to detect pathogenic bacteria in water. Biofunctional nanoparticles were fabricated by attaching human immunoglobulin (IgG), which binds selectively to IgG-binding sites on the cell walls of pathogens, onto the surfaces of magnetite (Fe3
) nanoparticles. Using this assay, both S. saprophyticus
and S. aureus
were detected at concentrations of 3ˆó105
cfu/ml in aqueous sample solutions. Measuring adenosine triphosphate (ATP) bioluminescence of bacteria captured onto magnetic nanoparticles is another proposed method for detecting microorganisms. E coli
was detected in milk by Cheng et al. within a short period (1 h) and with a low detection limit (20 cfu/ml).
Biofunctional magnetic glyconanoparticles have also been engineered by covently binding unmodified monosaccharide d-mannose onto iron oxide nanoparticles. These particles had the ability to recognize mannose-specific receptor sites on E. coli.
Magnetic nanoparticles have been developed to sequester DNA in water and capture the DNA-nanoparticles complexes by the application of high-gradient magnetic separation. Modifying magnetite clusters with poly(hexamethylene biguanide)- and polyethyleneimine resulted in strong cationic nanoparticles which enabled the binding with DNA molecules through electrostatic forces. The cationic nanoparticles can also serve as a disinfectant by binding to the negatively charged cell envelopes of bacteria. These particles were colloidally stable in fresh and ocean water for weeks at a pH <= 10.
Magnetic microparticle-antibody conjugates (Dynabeads) are commercially available and kits have been developed for the detection of Legionella
oocysts and Giardia
cysts from concentrated water samples. Dynabeads are also available for the detection of E. coli
species; however the samples must be grown for 6 - 8 h in a pre-enrichment broth. Streptavidin coated Dynabeads allow researchers to design their own magnetic microparticle-antibody conjugates for specialized assays (www.invitrogen.com). Biotinylated organism-specific antibodies will bind covalently onto the streptavidin coated Dynabeads. A wide range of biotin-labeled antibodies are available from companies such as Abcam (www.abcam.com).
Despite the promise shown by biofunctional magnetic nanoparticles, some challenges regarding their widespread use have yet to be overcome. In addition to requiring a robust surface chemistry to attach bioactive molecules onto magnetic nanoparticles without laborious synthetic efforts, more precise control of the numbers and orientations of the molecules on the surfaces of magnetic nanoparticles is also required.