"We think this is quite a dramatic shift from existing applications and will enable expanded opportunities for understanding and influencing cellular biology," said the paper's first author Gary Shambat, a doctoral candidate in electrical engineering. Shambat works at the Nanoscale and Quantum Photonics Lab directed by Vuckovic.
IRON TO A MAGNET
In this case, the studied cells came from a prostate tumor, indicating possible application for the probe in cancer research. The primary and most immediate use would be in the real-time sensing of specific proteins within the cells, but the probe could be adapted to sense any important biomolecules such as DNA or RNA.
To detect these key molecules, researchers coat the probe with certain organic molecules or antibodies that are known to attract the target proteins, just like iron to a magnet. If the desired proteins are present within the cell, they begin to accumulate on the probe and cause a slight-but-detectable shift in the wavelength of the light being emitted from the device. This shift is a positive indication that the protein is present and in what quantity.
"Let's say you have a study that is interested in whether a certain drug produces or inhibits a specific protein. Our biosensor would tell definitively if the drug was working and how well based on the color of the light from the probe. It would be quite a powerful tool," explained Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, MD, co-author of the paper and chair of the Department of Radiology at the Stanford School of Medicine as well as director of Stanford's Canary Center for Early Cancer Detection.
As such, embeddable nanoscale optical sensors would represent a key development in the quest for patient-specific cancer therapiesoften referr
|Contact: Andrew Myers|
Stanford School of Engineering