Description: The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has developed phage-like nanoparticles with the ability to detect toxins. The nanoparticles are produced in E. coli and can display many antibodies on its relatively large head. Toxin recognition is made possible with surface modification through either genetic engineering or direct chemical conjugation allowing for the display of llama antibodies. The multiple copies of antibodies per particle increases the detection sensitivity through increased avidity. Studies have confirmed the nanoparticles' ability to detect the toxin ricin, as shown above. Due to the genetic engineering approach, new displayed antibodies can be rapidly produced on the nanoparticle head for detection of different toxins. Underwater detection is possible when using the phage-like particle as a sensor platform. The bacteriophage is non-contagious (not viable), non-toxic, and biodegradable. The phage-like particles have been confirmed to be non-toxic to human umbilical endothelial cells, astrocytes, and liver cells.

Advantages/Features Include:

  • Recovers from E. coli with 90% purity
  • Uses commercially available equipment and techniques for large-scale production
  • Demonstrates no growth impact on cells

Applications Include:

  • Toxin detection
  • Sensor surface for bio-recognition
  • Sensor probes


  • "Bacteriophage T4 Nanoparticles as Materials in Sensor Applications: Variables That Influence Their Organization and Assembly on Surfaces," Sensors 9 (2009) 6298-6311.

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