A few years ago researchers identified the Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2 (HER-2) protein as a biomarker for the presence of certain types of breast cancer. Tests for it, though, are expensive and take much time to produce results. Researchers at the University of Connecticut and University of Hartford have now developed a cheap biosensor that detects HER-2 in a small whole blood sample within fifteen minutes.
The achievement relied on using an inkjet printer to put down a nanoparticle ink onto a plastic substrate, in the process producing a specialized electrode array chip. The chip has antibodies coating the electrodes that capture HER-2 proteins. The chip works in conjunction with a microfluidic device that controls the flow of the blood sample through the chip, and after the blood is passed through, a special liquid is injected and an electric current passed through.
The measured current across the chip varies slightly whether there are HER-2 proteins attached or not, providing an indication of the blood test. The researchers
“Less invasive, more accessible, and faster diagnostic tools like this biosensor are essential to improving healthcare,” said Seila Selimovic, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering programs in Biosensors and Physiological Detectors program, the organization that sponsored much of the research. “As biosensors continue to progress it is important to keep in mind diagnostic tools are only helpful when accurate. This biosensor works in the clinically relevant range and has one of the lowest reported HER-2 detection limits, so fewer false positives and negatives will occur.”