How a fake coronavirus sample could help scientists tackle the real thing

How a fake coronavirus sample could help scientists tackle the real thing

When Dr. Soo Khim Chan runs what appears to be a regular virus sample through a COVID-19 test, she knows that if all goes well, it will come back positive. But Chan’s sample isn’t from a COVID-19 patient, and it doesn’t even contain the virus which causes the disease. Instead, she’s using a virus-like nanoparticle called a probe — essentially a fake coronavirus. Although they’re only being used for research purposes at this stage, and were only made in the lab, these probes could serve a surprisingly essential purpose in the process of testing patients for COVID-19. 

Dr. Chan, a nanoengineer at the University of California, San Diego, co-led research to produce these probes with Dr. Nicole Steinmetz, a nanoengineer and professor at UCSD who leads Chan’s lab. Their goal was to create something called a positive control. Scientists test positive controls alongside samples from patients so they can compare the two and ensure that the process of testing a patient sample for COVID-19 has worked correctly. Read more…

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