Advancements in nanotechnology sensors have aided in the detection of subtle, but significant cellular deviations that may mark certain stages of diseases. Gold nanorods (GNRs) are often studied for this purpose due to their tunable optical properties and ease in surface functionalization. The absorption properties of GNRs are governed by the localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR), which strongly depends on the GNR’s aspect ratio and on interparticle interactions. By controlling the coupling of nearby rods, a sensor can be created to respond to temperature fluctuations in the local environment. Here, we fabricated thermo-responsive gold nanorod assemblies by conjugating GNRs in end-to-end or side-by-side configurations using Poly(N-isopropyl acrylamide) (PNIPAM). End-to-end assemblies were fabricated through mixture of GNRs and PNIPAM in DI water. GNRs and PNIPAM were combined in DI water and dimethylformamide (DMF) under sonication to achieve side-by-side configuration. The optical absorption of the assemblies was measured by UV-Visible spectroscopy at different temperatures. As the temperature increased, the polymer contracted and initiated plasmon coupling between the GNRs. The optical spectrum experienced a blue- or red-shift for side-by-side or end-to-end configurations, respectively. Spectral tunability reversal was observed when cooled. Experimental results were verified by finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) calculations, which demonstrated spectral shifts under similar parameters. We present methods for fabrication of thermo-responsive gold nanorods for use as a local thermal nanosensor.
Efficient methods for the accurate analysis of drug toxicities are in urgent demand as failures of newly discovered drug candidates due to toxic side effects have resulted in about 30% of clinical attrition. The high failure rate is partly due to current inadequate models to study drug side effects, i.e., common animal models may fail due to its misrepresentation of human physiology. Therefore, much effort has been allocated in the development of organ-on-a-chip models which offer a variety of human organ models mimicking a multitude of human physiological conditions. However, it is extremely challenging to analyze the transient and long-term response of the organ models to drug treatments during drug toxicity tests, as the proteins secreted from the organ-on-a-chip model are minute due to its volumetric size, and current methods for detecting said biomolecules are not suitable for real-time monitoring. As protein biomolecules are being continuously secreted from the human organ model, fluorescence techniques are practically impossible to achieve real-time fluorescence labeling in the dynamically changing environment, thus making a label-free approach highly desirable for the organ-on-achip applications. In this paper, we report the use of a photonic-crystal biosensor integrated with a microfluidic system for sensitive label-free bioassays of secreted protein biomolecules from a heart-on-the-chip model created with cardiomyocytes derived from human induced pluripotent stem cells.
Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) biomarker assays are the current clinical method for mass screening of prostate cancer. However, high false-positive rates are often reported due to PSA’s low specificity, leading to an urgent need for the development of a more specific detection system independent of PSA levels. In our previous research, we demonstrated the feasibility of using cellular refractive indices (RI) as a unique contrast parameter to accomplish label-free detection of prostate cancer cells via variance testing, but were unable to determine if a specific cell was cancerous or noncancerous. In this paper, we report the use of our Photonic-Crystal biosensor in a Total-Internal-Reflection (PC-TIR) configuration to construct a label-free imaging system, which allows for the detection of individual prostate cancer cells utilizing cellular RI as the only contrast parameter. Noncancerous prostate (BPH-1) cells and prostate cancer (PC-3) cells were mixed at varied ratios and measured concurrently. Additionally, we isolated and induced PC-3 cells to undergo epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) by exposing these cells to soluble factors such as TGF-β1. The biophysical characteristics of the cellular RI were quantified extensively in comparison to non-induced PC-3 cells as well as BPH-1 cells. EMT is a crucial mechanism for the invasion and metastasis of epithelial tumors characterized by the loss of cell-cell adhesion and increased cell mobility. Our study shows promising clinical potential in utilizing the PC-TIR biosensor imaging system to not only detect prostate cancer cells, but also evaluate prostate cancer progression.
Breast cancer treatment options often include medications that target the overexpression of growth factor receptors, such as the proto-oncogene human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2/neu) and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) to suppress the abnormal growth of cancerous cells and induce cancer regression. Although effective, certain treatments are toxic to vital organs, and demand assurance that the pursued receptor is present at the tumor before administration of the drug. This requires diagnostic tools to provide tumor molecular signatures, as well as locational information. In this study, we utilized a fiber-optic probe to characterize in vivo HER2 and EGFR overexpressed tumors through the fluorescence of targeted dyes. HER2 and EGFR antibodies were conjugated with ICG-Sulfo-OSu and Alexa Fluor 680, respectively, to tag BT474 (HER2+) and MDA-MB-468 (EGFR+) tumors. The fiber was inserted into the samples via a 30-gauge needle. Different wavelengths of a supercontinuum laser were selected to couple into the fiber and excite the corresponding fluorophores in the samples. The fluorescence from the dyes was collected through the same fiber and quantified by a time-correlated single photon counter. Fluorescence at different antibody-dye concentrations was measured for calibration. Mice with subcutaneous HER2+ and/or EGFR+ tumors received intravenous injections of the conjugates and were later probed at the tumor sites. The measured fluorescence was used to distinguish between tumor types and to calculate the concentration of the antibody-dye conjugates, which were detectable at levels as low as 40 nM. The fiber-optic probe presents a minimally invasive instrument to characterize the molecular signatures of breast cancer in vivo.