An international team have developed an implantable biosensor for monitoring nitric oxide to detect the onset of osteoarthritis
Early diagnosis of degenerative diseases such as osteoarthritis is not possible using conventional methods which can increasingly deteriorate over time. Hence, Cheng and his student, Shangbin Liu, who earned a master’s degree in engineering science and mechanics at Penn State collaborated with researchers based in China to design a flexible and highly sensitive biosensor using an electrochemical transistor that shows the ability to detect continuous and wireless nitric oxide. The level of nitric oxide concentrations can indicate the severity of the disease, this information could be essential for surgery and other treatments.
“Real-time assessment of biomarkers associated with inflammation, such as nitric oxide in the joint cavity, could indicate pathological evolution at the initial development of osteoarthritis, providing essential information to optimize therapies following a traumatic knee injury,” Cheng said.
“We tuned the channel geometry and gate materials to align how the nitric oxide electrochemical signals enter the channel and how the device detects them, optimizing the sensing capabilities,” Cheng said. “The reference-free sensor with a miniaturized active sensing region enables nitric oxide detection with improved spatial resolution compared with previously reported electrochemical nitric oxide sensors, which could allow the mapping of electrochemical signals to offer comprehensive diagnostic information.”
The researchers combined sensors with a customized circuit module, this configuration enables continuous and wireless monitoring of nitric oxide levels, which are transmitted via Bluetooth to a cell phone app. They experimented with this device by implanting it in rabbits and after eight days they found that the device successfully detected nitric oxide concentrations. “The results indicate that early signs of high nitric oxide concentrations could be correlated with inflammation and cartilage degeneration at the later stage, which could potentially offer essential information to evaluate the progression to osteoarthritis after ACL injury and optimize posttraumatic treatments,” Cheng said.
“Overall, the proposed materials options and device design could offer a critical engineering basis for decoding health conditions at an early stage and maximizing therapeutic outcomes of associated degeneration and disorders,” Yin said.
The researchers will continue to investigate the link between nitric oxide concentrations and osteoarthritis and enhance the sensing technology.
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