The sensitivity of the tiny electronic sensors can often be greater than current systems, potentially allowing diseases to be detected earlier. Because the sample wells will be substantially smaller than those of current microplates allowing a smaller form factor they could permit more testing to be done with a given sample volume.
The technology could also facilitate use of ligand-based sensing that recognizes specific genetic sequences in DNA or messenger RNA. "This would very quickly give us an indication of the proteins that are being expressed by that patient, which gives us knowledge of the disease state at the point-of-care," explained Ken Scarberry, a postdoctoral fellow in McDonald's lab.
So far, the researchers have demonstrated a biosensing system with silicon nanowire sensors in a 16-well device built on a one-centimeter by one-centimeter chip. The nanowires, just 50 by 70 nanometers, differentiated between ovarian cancer cells and healthy ovarian epithelial cells at a variety of cell densities.
Silicon nanowire sensor technology can be used to simultaneously detect large numbers of different cells and biomaterials without labels. Beyond that versatile technology, the biosensing platform could accommodate a broad range of other sensors including technologies that may not exist yet. Ultimately, hundreds of thousands of different sensors could be included on each chip, enough to rapidly detect markers for a broad range of diseases.
"Our platform idea is really sensor agnostic," said Ravindran. "It could be used with a lot of different sensors that people are developing. It would give us an opportunity to bring together a lot of different kinds of sensors in a single chip."
|Contact: John Toon|
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News