ICFO has announced that an international team of researchers, led by ICREA professor and ICFO group leader Romain Quidant, has reported on the successful development of a “lab-on-a-chip” platform capable of detecting protein cancer markers in the blood using the latest advances in plasmonics, nanofabrication, microfluids, and surface chemistry.
ICFO is the Institute of Photonic Science (or, in Catalan, the Institut de Ciències Fotòniques), established in 2002 in Barcelona. ICREA is the Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats, also in Barcelona.
The researchers report that the device can detect very low concentrations of protein cancer markers, enabling diagnoses of the disease in its earliest stages. This cancer-tracking nano-device shows great promise as a tool for future cancer treatments, not only because of its reliability, sensitivity and potential low cost, but also because it is compact, measuring only a few square centimeters, so it can facilitate effective diagnosis and suitable treatment in remote places.
ICFO reports that “…the lab-on-a-chip hosts various sensing sites distributed across a network of fluidic micro-channels that enable it to conduct multiple analyses.” Gold nano-particles on the surface of the chip are chemically programmed with an antibody receptor such that they can attract protein markers circulating in blood.
“When a drop of blood is injected into the chip, it circulates through the micro-channels, and if cancer markers are present in the blood, they will stick to the nano-particles located on the micro-channels as they pass by, setting off changes in what is known as the 'plasmonic resonance,'” ICFO reports. “The device monitors these changes, the magnitude of which are directly related to the concentration/number of markers in the patient blood, thus providing a direct assessment of the risk for the patient to develop a cancer.”
Elaborating on plasmonic resonance in an abstract to their paper describing the device in Nano Letters, the researchers note, “Label-free biosensing based on metallic nanoparticles supporting localized surface plasmon resonances (LSPR) has recently received growing interest…when compared to the surface plasmon resonance (SPR) approach based on extended metal films….” They continue, “…LSPR biosensing features a high-end miniaturization potential and a significant reduction of the interrogation device bulkiness, positioning itself as a promising candidate for point-of-care diagnostic and field applications.”
ICFO said the results are the outcome of the SPEDOC (Surface Plasmon Early Detection of Circulating Heat Shock Proteins and Tumor Cells) FP7 project of the European Commission. The project also received philanthropic support from Cellex Foundation Barcelona.