Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

DNAzyme-Based Nanosensors for Hg2+ and As5+ Detection

Technology #3326

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Raveender Vannela
Managed By
Richard Greeley
Senior Licensing Specialist, Engineering 734-936-2093


Various metals may pose a health hazard and risk as environmental contaminants. To date, many of the existing methods for metal detection may be non-selective to species, and often involve sophisticated equipment and sample pre-treatment. As such, these methods are limited in their capacity to be deployed in the field and may be time- and cost-inhibitive. In this regard, DNAzymes, or deoxyribozymes, have a promising capacity to selectively identify charged metallic species at ultratrace levels in the environment. Owing to its stability against chemical and nuclease degradation in addition to catalytic activity and substrate recognition ability, DNAzymes have been explored as potential reagents for biochemical, environmental, and pharmaceutical applications.


Researchers at the University of Michigan have developed DNAzymes that specifically recognize mercury (Hg2+) and arsenic (As5+) at low levels in aqueous solutions. The DNAzymes are catalytically active towards mercury and arsenic, respectively, and may be advantageously incorporated into sensors that are suitable for detecting the respective ions in various samples. These molecules include a single strand of DNA, which is attached to a fluorophore to detect the presence of a particular ion, and a quencher of the fluorophore.

Applications and Advantages


  • Detection of specific species of metal ions


  • High stability, specificity, and sensitivity
  • Adaptable for high-throughput screening and for-nl-use on the field in real-time
  • Flexibility for tailored modifications