Human biomarkers are indicative of the body’s relative state prior to the onset of disease, and sometimes before symptoms present. While blood biomarker detection has achieved considerable success in laboratory settings, its clinical application is lagging and commercial point-of-care devices are rare. A physician’s ability to detect biomarkers such as microRNA-17, a potential epigenetic indicator of preeclampsia in pregnant woman, could enable early diagnosis and preventive intervention as early as the 1st trimester. One detection approach employing DNA-functionalized nanoparticles to detect microRNA-17, in conjunction with surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), has shown promise but is hindered, in part, by the use of large and expensive benchtop Raman microscopes. However, recent strides have been made in developing portable Raman systems for field applications. Characteristics of the SERS assay responsible for strengthening the assay’s plasmonic response were explored, whilst comparing the results from both benchtop and portable Raman systems. The Raman spectra and intensity of three different types of photoactive molecules were compared as potential Raman reporter molecules: chromophores, fluorophores, and highly polarizable small molecules. Furthermore, the plasmonic characteristics governing the formation of SERS colloidal nanoparticle assemblies in response to DNA/miRNA hybridization were investigated. There were significant variations in the SERS enhancement in response to microRNA-17 using our assay depending on the excitation lasers at wavelengths of 532 nm and 785 nm, depending on which of the three different Raman systems were used (benchtop, portable, and handheld), and depending on which of the three different Raman reporters (chromophore, fluorophore, or Raman active molecule) were used. Analysis of data obtained did indicate that signal enhancement was better for the chromophore (MGITC) and Raman active molecule (DTNB) than it was for the fluorophore (TRITC) and that, although it is possible to obtain enhancements when using excitation lasers that do not directly coincide with the optical properties of the Raman reporter molecule, clearly the enhancements are more significant when it reaches to the characteristic wavelengths of those molecules.
The controlled assembly of plasmonic nanoparticles by a molecular binding event has emerged as a simple yet sensitive methodology for protein detection. Metallic nanoparticles (NPs) coated with functionalized aptamers can be utilized as biosensors by monitoring changes in particle optical properties, such as the LSPR shift and enhancement of the SERS spectra, in the presence of a target protein. Herein we test this method using two modified aptamers selected for the protein biomarker interleukin 6, an indicator of the dengue fever virus and other diseases including certain types of cancers, diabetes, and even arthritis. IL6 works by inducing an immunological response within the body that can be either anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory. The results show that the average hydrodynamic diameter of the NPs as measured by Dynamic Light Scattering was ~42 nm. After conjugation of the aptamers, the peak absorbance of the AgNPs shifted from 404 to 408 nm indicating a surface modification of the NPs due to the presence of the aptamer. Lastly, preliminary results were obtained showing an increase in SERS intensity occurs when the IL-6 protein was introduced to the conjugate solution but the assay will still need to be optimized in order for it to be able to monitor varying concentration changes within and across the desired range.
Competitive binding assays comprised of the protein Concanavalin A (ConA) have shown potential for use in continuous glucose monitoring devices. However, its time-dependent, thermal instability can impact the lifetime of these ConA based assays. In an attempt to design sensors with longer in vivo lifetimes, different groups have immobilized the protein to various surfaces. For example, Ballerstadt et al. have shown that immobilizing ConA onto the interior of a micro-dialysis membrane and allowing dextran to be freely suspended within solution allowed for successful in vivo glucose sensing up to 16 days. This work explores the glucose response of an assay comprised of modified ConA and a single fluorescently labeled competing ligand in free solution to increase the in vivo sensing lifetime without immobilization,. The behavior of this assay in the presence of varying glucose concentrations is monitored via fluorescence anisotropy over a 30 day period.
The ability of people with diabetes to both monitor and regulate blood sugar levels is limited by the conventional “finger-prick” test that provides intermittent, single point measurements. Toward the development of a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system, the lectin, Concanavalin A (ConA), has been utilized as a component in a Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET), competitive glucose binding assay. Recently, to avoid reversibility problems associated with ConA aggregation, a suitable competing ligand labeled with 8-aminopyrene-1,3,6-trisulfonic acid trisodium salt (APTS) has been engineered. However, its ability to function as part of a glucose sensing assay is compromised due to the negative charge (at physiological pH) of native ConA that gives rise to non-specific binding with other ConA groups as well as with electrostatically charged assay-delivery carriers. To minimize these undesirable interactions, we have conjugated ConA with monomethoxy-poly(ethylene glycol) (mPEG) (i.e. “PEGylation”). In this preliminary research, fluorescently-labeled ConA was successfully PEGylated with mPEG-Nhydroxylsuccinimide( succinimidyl carbonate) (mPEG-NHS(SC)). The FRET response of APTS-labeled competing ligand (donor) conveyed an increase in the fluorescence intensity with increasing glucose concentrations.