Two major issues need to be addressed in applying semiconductor biosensors to detecting proteins in immunoassays. First, the length of the antibody on the sensor surface surpasses the Debye lengths (approximately 1 nm, in normal ionic strength solution), preventing certain specifically bound proteins from being tightly attached to the sensor surface. Therefore, these proteins do not contribute to the sensor's surface potential change. Second, these proteins carry a small charge and can be easily affected by the pH of the surrounding solution. This study proposes a magnetic bead-based immunoassay using a secondary antibody to label negatively charged DNA fragments for signal amplification. An externally imposed magnetic force attaches the analyte tightly to the sensor surface, thereby effectively solving the problem of the analyte protein's distance to the sensor surface surpassing the Debye lengths. In addition, a normal ion intensity buffer can be used without dilution for the proposed method. Experiments revealed that the sensitivity can be improved by using a longer DNA fragment for labeling and smaller magnetic beads as solid support for the antibody. By using a 90 base pair DNA label, the signal was 15 times greater than that without labeling. In addition, by using a 120 nm magnetic bead, a minimum detection limit of 12.5 ng mL-1 apolipoprotein A1 can be measured. Furthermore, this study integrates a semiconductor sensor with a microfluidic chip. With the help of microvalves and micromixers in the chip, the length of the mixing step for each immunoassay has been reduced from 1 h to 20 min, and the sample volume has been reduced from 80 μL to 10 μL. In practice, a protein biomarker in a urinary bladder cancer patient's urine was successfully measured using this technique. This study provides a convenient and effective method to measure protein using a semiconductor sensor.
Lin, Yen-Heng, Po-Yu Peng
Analytica Chimica Acta