Imec Helps Detect Cancer with Asymmetric Nanostructures Research

Imec researchers have created biosensors based on nanostructure geometries that increase sensitivity. The biosensors can detect extremely low concentrations of specific disease markers. According to imec, this paves the way to early diagnostics of cancer by detecting low densities of cancer markers in human blood samples. Some of the research results were achieved in collaboration with the Catholic University of Leuven (Leuven, Belgium), Imperial College (London, UK) and Rice University (Houston, Texas).

Functionalized nanoparticles can identify and measure extremely low concentrations of specific molecules. They enable the realization of diagnostic systems with increased sensitivity, specificity and reliability resulting in a better and more cost-efficient healthcare. Going one step further, functionalized nanoparticles can help treat diseases, by destroying the diseased cells that the nanoparticles bind to.

Imec nanotechnology research centre plans to develop biosensor systems exploiting a phenomenon known as localized surface plasmon resonance in noble metal (e.g. gold and silver) nanostructures. The biosensors are based on optical detection of a change in spectral response of the nanostructures upon binding a disease marker. The detection sensitivity can be increased by changing the morphology and size of the noble metal nanostructures. The biosensor system is cheap and easily extendable to multiparameter biosensing.

Imec recently presented broken symmetry gold nanostructures that combine nanorings with nanodiscs. Combining different nanostructures in close proximity allows detailed engineering of the plasmon resonance of the nanostructures. More specifically, imec targeted an optimization of both the width of the resonance peak and the resonance shift upon binding of the disease marker. With respect to these parameters, the new geometries clearly outperform the traditional nanospheres. Therefore, they are better suited for practical use in sensitive biosensor systems.

More information: Imec