Air Force

Non-antibody-based biomarker sensor

Peptide-conjugated gold nanorods for enhanced detection of analytes

Medical & Biotechnology

Cross sectional view of biosensor (60) with peptides (66) conjugated to a nanorod (64) on a substrate (62). Targets (58) are shown bound to peptides. (71) indicates that the distal end of the peptide is no farther than 15 nm from the nanorod.

Specific biomolecular couplings, such as antibody-antigen interactions, form the basis for numerous bioassays, including enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), immunoblotting, and immunoprecipitation. Conventionally, plasmonic biosensors include a substrate and a metal nanostructure, with antibodies as recognition elements for particular targets. While antibody-based biosensors offer excellent molecular recognition capabilities, there remain drawbacks. Particularly, antibody biosensors fail at certain pH levels and temperatures, lose conformation and recognition functionality in non-aqueous media, have high cost associated with generating antibodies, and have poor compatibility with micro- and nanofabrication processes.

To address the above shortcomings, Air Force researchers have developed a novel universal biomarker sensing platform by taking advantage of the optical properties of plasmonic nanoparticles (gold nanorods) functionalized with short peptide recognition elements. The simple design includes a substrate (glass, paper, polymer, etc.) with a metallic layer that is localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR) reactive. Peptides make up the receptor layer on the surface of the metallic layer. Each peptide is selected to a desired biomarker. A surface plasmon resonance spectrometer serves as the detection technology.

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