A single centimeter-sized array of the nanosensors can simultaneously and continuously monitor thousands of times more protein-binding events than any existing sensor. The new sensor is also able to detect interactions with greater sensitivity and deliver the results significantly faster than the present "gold standard" method.
"You can fit thousands, even tens of thousands, of different proteins of interest on the same chip and run the protein-binding experiments in one shot," said Shan Wang..."
"In theory, in one test, you could look at a drug's affinity for every protein in the human body," said Richard Gaster, MD/PhD candidate in bioengineering and medicine, who is the first author of a paper describing the research that is in the current issue of Nature Nanotechnology, available online now.
Gaster offers an example of the biosensor's potential in developing a breast cancer drug:
To determine that, the researchers would put breast cancer proteins on the nanosensor array, along with proteins from the liver, lungs, kidneys and any other kind of tissue that they are concerned about. Then they would add the medication with its magnetic nanotags attached and see which proteins the drug binds with - and how strongly.
"We can see how strongly the drug binds to breast cancer cells and then also how strongly it binds to any other cells in the human body such as your liver, kidneys and brain," Gaster said. "So we can start to predict the adverse affects to this drug without ever putting it in a human patient."
The paper describing their work is available from Nature Nanotechnology (subscription required).
Photo by Sebastian Osterfeld