Researchers have created a novel, low-cost biosensor to detect HER-2, a breast cancer biomarker in the blood, allowing for a far less-invasive diagnostic test than the current practice, a needle biopsy. Scientists combined microfluidic technology with diagnostics, including electrochemical sensors and biomarkers, into a powerful package that can give results in about 15 minutes.

An inkjet printer layers gold nanoparticle ink constructing a batch of biosensors capable of forming the detection platform for a breast cancer protein in blood. (Credit: Colleen E. Krause)

The biosensor chip was partially constructed using an inkjet printer, which layers nanoparticle inks onto a plastic surface to create an array of electrodes. The printed biosensor chip was deposited into a prefabricated microfluidic device, which directs fluids to flow in a controlled manner.

The patient's blood sample flows through the microfluidic device and the sensor chip, which is coated with antibodies. The antibody captures and immobilizes HER-2 proteins found within the sample.

The biosensor already can be modified to detect multiple biomarkers in the blood. Further efforts are directed at decreasing the size of the device, using printed circuit boards to construct a portable electrochemical unit like that of a glucose meter, which can fit in a person's palm.

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