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Title: Detection of an IL-6 Biomarker Using a GFET Platform Developed with a Facile Organic Solvent-Free Aptamer Immobilization Approach
Aptamer-immobilized graphene field-effect transistors (GFETs) have become a well-known detection platform in the field of biosensing with various biomarkers such as proteins, bacteria, virus, as well as chemicals. A conventional aptamer immobilization technique on graphene involves a two-step crosslinking process. In the first step, a pyrene derivative is anchored onto the surface of graphene and, in the second step, an amine-terminated aptamer is crosslinked to the pyrene backbone with EDC/NHS (1-ethyl-3-(3-dimethylaminopropyl) carbodiimide hydrochloride/N-hydroxysuccinimide) chemistry. However, this process often requires the use of organic solvents such as dimethyl formamide (DMF) or dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) which are typically polar aprotic solvents and hence dissolves both polar and nonpolar compounds. The use of such solvents can be especially problematic in the fabrication of lab-on-a-chip or point-of-care diagnostic platforms as they can attack vulnerable materials such as polymers, passivation layers and microfluidic tubing leading to device damage and fluid leakage. To remedy such challenges, in this work, we demonstrate the use of pyrene-tagged DNA aptamers (PTDA) for performing a one-step aptamer immobilization technique to implement a GFET-based biosensor for the detection of Interleukin-6 (IL-6) protein biomarker. In this approach, the aptamer terminal is pre-tagged with a pyrene group which becomes soluble in aqueous solution. This obviates the need for using organic solvents, thereby enhancing the device integrity. In addition, an external electric field is applied during the functionalization step to increase the efficiency of aptamer immobilization and hence improved coverage and density. The results from this work could potentially open up new avenues for the use of GFET-based BioMEMS platforms by broadening the choice of materials used for device fabrication and integration.  more » « less
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  1. Abstract

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  2. Dementia is a brain disease which results in irreversible and progressive loss of cognition and motor activity. Despite global efforts, there is no simple and reliable diagnosis or treatment option. Current diagnosis involves indirect testing of commonly inaccessible biofluids and low-resolution brain imaging. We have developed a portable, wireless readout-based Graphene field-effect transistor (GFET) biosensor platform that can detect viruses, proteins, and small molecules with single-molecule sensitivity and specificity. We report the detection of three important amyloids, namely, Amyloid beta (Aβ), Tau (τ), and α-Synuclein (αS) using DNA aptamer nanoprobes. These amyloids were isolated, purified, and characterized from the autopsied brain tissues of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and Parkinson’s Disease (PD) patients. The limit of detection (LoD) of the sensor is 10 fM, 1–10 pM, 10–100 fM for Aβ, τ, and αS, respectively. Synthetic as well as autopsied brain-derived amyloids showed a statistically significant sensor response with respect to derived thresholds, confirming the ability to define diseased vs. nondiseased states. The detection of each amyloid was specific to their aptamers; Aβ, τ, and αS peptides when tested, respectively, with aptamers nonspecific to them showed statistically insignificant cross-reactivity. Thus, the aptamer-based GFET biosensor has high sensitivity and precision across a range of epidemiologically significant AD and PD variants. This portable diagnostic system would allow at-home and POC testing for neurodegenerative diseases globally.

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  3. null (Ed.)
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  5. Neurotransmitters are small molecules involved in neuronal signaling and can also serve as stress biomarkers.1Their abnormal levels have been also proposed to be indicative of several neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington disease, among others. Hence, measuring their levels is highly important for early diagnosis, therapy, and disease prognosis. In this work, we investigate facile functionalization methods to tune and enhance sensitivity of printed graphene sensors to neurotransmitters. Sensors based on direct laser scribing and screen-printed graphene ink are studied. These printing methods offer ease of prototyping and scalable fabrication at low cost.

    The effect of functionalization of laser induced graphene (LIG) by electrodeposition and solution-based deposition of TMDs (molybdenum disulfide2and tungsten disulfide) and metal nanoparticles is studied. For different processing methods, electrochemical characteristics (such as electrochemically active surface area: ECSA and heterogenous electron transfer rate: k0) are extracted and correlated to surface chemistry and defect density obtained respectively using X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and Raman spectroscopy. These functionalization methods are observed to directly impact the sensitivity and limit of detection (LOD) of the graphene sensors for the studied neurotransmitters. For example, as compared to bare LIG, it is observed that electrodeposition of MoS2on LIG improves ECSA by 3 times and k0by 1.5 times.3Electrodeposition of MoS2also significantly reduces LOD of serotonin and dopamine in saliva, enabling detection of their physiologically relevant concentrations (in pM-nM range). In addition, chemical treatment of LIG sensors is carried out in the form of acetic acid treatment. Acetic acid treatment has been shown previously to improve C-C bonds improving the conductivity of LIG sensors.4In our work, in particular, acetic acid treatment leads to larger improvement of LOD of norepinephrine compared to MoS2electrodeposition.

    In addition, we investigate the effect of plasma treatment to tune the sensor response by modifying the defect density and chemistry. For example, we find that oxygen plasma treatment of screen-printed graphene ink greatly improves LOD of norepinephrine up to three orders of magnitude, which may be attributed to the increased defects and oxygen functional groups on the surface as evident by XPS measurements. Defects are known to play a key role in enhancing the sensitivity of 2D materials to surface interactions, and have been explored in tuning/enhancing the sensor sensitivity.5Building on our previous work,3we apply a custom machine learning-based data processing method to further improve that sensitivity and LOD, and also to automatically benchmark different molecule-material pairs.

    Future work includes expanding the plasma chemistry and conditions, studying the effect of precursor mixture in laser-induced solution-based functionalization, and understanding the interplay between molecule-material system. Work is also underway to improve the machine learning model by using nonlinear learning models such as neural networks to improve the sensor sensitivity, selectivity, and robustness.


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