Nanowires Improve Measurement of Biomolecules

An interdisciplinary team of engineers in the Yale Institute for Nanoscience and Quantum Engineering has overcome hurdles in NW synthesis by using a tried-and-true process of wet-etch lithography on commercially available silicon-on-insulator wafers. These NWs are structurally stable and demonstrate an unprecedented sensitivity as sensors for detection of antibodies and other biologically important molecules.


Schematic of nanowire sensors operating in solution; © Reed/Yale

According to Mark Reed, Harold Hodgkinson Professor of Engineering & Applied Science, not only can the NWs detect extremely minute concentrations (as few as 1000 individual molecules in a cubic millimeter), they can do it without the hazard or inconvenience of any added fluorescent or radioactive detection probes.

The study demonstrated the ability of the NWs to monitor antibody binding, and to sense real-time live cellular immune response using T-lymphocyte activation as a model. Within approximately 10 seconds, the NW could register T-cell activation as the release acid to the device. The basis for the sensors is the detection of hydrogen ions or acidity, within the physiological range of reactions in the body. Traditional assays for detection of immune system cells such as T cells or for antibodies usually take hours to complete.

"The ability to differentiate between immune system cells based on their function and with label-free reagents is key for rapid and reliable diagnostics as well as for advancing basic science," said co-author Tarek Fahmy, assistant professor of biomedical engineering. "These nanosensors can replace current technology with a solid-state device and the results promise to radically change the way we assay for these cells."; Source: Yale University