Sensitive detection of protein and miRNA cancer biomarkers using silicon-based photonic crystals and a resonance coupling laser scanning platform

Enhancement of the fluorescent output of surface-based fluorescence assays by performing them upon nanostructured photonic crystal (PC) surfaces has been demonstrated to increase signal intensities by >8000x. Using the multiplicative effects of optical resonant coupling to the PC in increasing the electric field intensity experienced by fluorescent labels (enhanced excitation) and the spatially biased funneling of fluorophore emissions through coupling to PC resonances (enhanced extraction), PC enhanced fluorescence (PCEF) can be adapted to reduce the limits of detection of disease biomarker assays, and to reduce the size and cost of high sensitivity detection instrumentation. In this work, we demonstrate the first silicon-based PCEF detection platform for multiplexed biomarker assay. The sensor in this platform is a silicon-based PC structure, comprised of a SiO2 grating that is overcoated with a thin film of high refractive index TiO2 and is produced in a semiconductor foundry for low cost, uniform, and reproducible manufacturing. The compact detection instrument that completes this platform was designed to efficiently couple fluorescence excitation from a semiconductor laser to the resonant optical modes of the PC, resulting in elevated electric field strength that is highly concentrated within the region <100 nm from the PC surface. This instrument utilizes a cylindrically focused line to scan a microarray in <1 min. To demonstrate the capabilities of this sensor-detector platform, microspot fluorescent sandwich immunoassays using secondary antibodies labeled with Cy5 for two cancer biomarkers (TNF-α and IL-3) were performed. Biomarkers were detected at concentrations as low as 0.1 pM. In a fluorescent microarray for detection of a breast cancer miRNA biomarker miR-21, the miRNA was detectable at a concentration of 0.6 pM.

George, Sherine, Vikram Chaudhery, Meng Lu, Miki Takagi, Nabil Amro, Anusha Pokhriyal, Yafang Tan, Placid Ferreira, Brian T Cunningham

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