Development of a Portable, Ultra-Rapid and Ultra-Sensitive Cell-Based Biosensor for the Direct Detection of the SARS-CoV-2 S1 Spike Protein Antigen.Sensors (Basel). 2020 May 31; 20(11)S
One of the key challenges of the recent COVID-19 pandemic is the ability to accurately estimate the number of infected individuals, particularly asymptomatic and/or early-stage patients. We herewith report the proof-of-concept development of a biosensor able to detect the SARS-CoV-2 S1 spike protein expressed on the surface of the virus. The biosensor is based on membrane-engineered mammalian cells bearing the human chimeric spike S1 antibody. We demonstrate that the attachment of the protein to the membrane-bound antibodies resulted in a selective and considerable change in the cellular bioelectric properties measured by means of a Bioelectric Recognition Assay. The novel biosensor provided results in an ultra-rapid manner (3 min), with a detection limit of 1 fg/mL and a semi-linear range of response between 10 fg and 1 μg/mL. In addition, no cross-reactivity was observed against the SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein. Furthermore, the biosensor was configured as a ready-to-use platform, including a portable read-out device operated via smartphone/tablet. In this way, we demonstrate that the novel biosensor can be potentially applied for the mass screening of SARS-CoV-2 surface antigens without prior sample processing, therefore offering a possible solution for the timely monitoring and eventual control of the global coronavirus pandemic.