Nitrogen-vacancies are a common defect in diamond that can easily be detected and manipulated using light and magnetic fields, and so have been touted for a range of applications such as quantum computing, communications and sensing. Rachel McKendry and colleagues now demonstrate their potential for in vitro diagnostics, showing that fluorescent nanodiamonds functionalized with biomolecules are able to detect a biotin–avidin model with sensitivities five orders of magnitude better than that of gold nanoparticles. To show their potential clinical utility, RNA is detected in samples taken during the initial stages of an HIV-1 infection; however, a larger study is required to precisely ascertain the clinical sensitivity of this quantum-diagnostics platform.
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