We aim to transform the way that we can currently detect disease through innovations in the design and development of nanomaterials-based biosensors that could be used to detect a number of diseases with global implications, such as cancer (a third of the population), malaria (1.2 million deaths/year), heart failure (number one cause of death) and tuberculosis (1.5 million deaths/year). These innovations in biosensor design involve utilising plasmonic biosensors and also the development of completely new polymersome, quantum dot and nano-needle based biosensors.
Each disease state introduces biomolecular changes in signatures of proteins, enzymes or nucleic acid make-ups that represent targets for diagnostic tests. If detected and quantified accurately, these molecular changes can be read as a ‘signature’ of a particular disease state, yet currently used tests suffer from inaccuracy, insensitivity, difficulties with implementation or high costs.
We are developing new cost-amenable approaches that can look at larger profiles of subtle molecular changes, are much more sensitive to particular disease states and are designed to be transformative for the biosensing field.
Focus on Plasmonic ELISA:
• Our ‘plasmonic ELISA’ approach for ultrasensitive naked-eye detection of disease biomarkers published in Nature Nanotechnology in 2012 has the benefit of ultrasensitive naked eye detection [de la Rica and Stevens, 2012
]. This diagnostic technological concept was proven for prostate cancer and HIV related biomarker detection for analyte concentrations as low as 1× 10-18
Focus on quantum dot based biosensors:
• We have previously developed quantum-dot based detection systems [Ghadiali, Lowe and Stevens, 2011
] for the detection of enzymes that perform posttranslational modifications, such as kinases and acetyltransferases, which are important in cancer and malaria, and have used these systems for multiplexing [Lowe, Dick, Cohen and Stevens, 2011
Focus on nanoneedles:
• We have recently published the first class of biodegradable silica-based "nanoneedles" capable of penetrating cell membranes efficiently and safely deliver sensitive biocargoes or monitor intracellular pH and enzyme activities. This work in collaboration with HMRI was published on the Front Cover
of Nature Materials 2015 [Chiappini, De Rosa, Martinez, Liu, Steele, Stevens and Tasciotti, 2015
], and in ACS Nano [Chiappini, Martinez, De Rosa, Almeida, Tasciotti and Stevens, 2015
] and in Advanced Materials [Chiappini, Campagnolo, Almeida, Abbassi-Ghadi, Chow, Hanna and Stevens, 2015
]. These nanoneedles can efficiently transfer payloads of sensitive biocargoes within seconds directly into/from cells and tissues, such as nucleic acids and nanoparticles. We have also shown they have been able to map changes in pH at multiple points per cell and enable the visualisation of tumour-related enzymes within human cancer tissue.