Sunday, June 16, 2024

Plastic Transistor Enables Amplification Of Vital Micro Bio-Signals

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Researchers have developed a device that can amplify vital bio-signals to monitor and recognize diseases faster.

Single strands of engineered DNA, called aptamers, bind to a target and then fold to trigger an electrochemical signal. Credit: Jonathan Rivnay/Northwestern University

Human body is considered a great conductor. Although it may sound alarming but it also has a positive side. For example, the biochemical property of our skin that enables the touch on a mobile screen. Even various medical technologies are being developed based on the biochemical signals flowing through the human body. If we could sense these signals in real time with high sensitivity, then we might be able to recognize health problems faster and even monitor disease as it progresses.

Researchers from Northwestern University have developed a new technology that makes it easier to eavesdrop on our body’s inner conversations. This new method makes signals easier to detect without complex and bulky electronics and even boosts signals by more than 1,000 times.

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“If we could reliably measure biochemical signals in the body, we could incorporate those sensors into wearable technologies or implants that have a small footprint, less burden and don’t require expensive electronics,” said Northwestern’s Jonathan Rivnay, the study’s senior author. “But extracting high-quality signals has remained a challenge. With limited power and space inside the body, you need to find ways to amplify those signals.”

To bypass this issue, Rivnay’s team equipped an amplifying component onto a traditional electrode-based sensor and developed an electrochemical transistor-based sensor with new architecture that can sense and amplify the weak biochemical signal. In this new device, the electrode is used to sense a signal, but the nearby transistor is dedicated to amplifying the signal. The researchers also incorporated a built-in, thin-film reference electrode to make the amplified signals more stable and reliable.

To validate the new technology, researchers turned to a common cytokine, a type of signaling protein, that regulates immune response and is implicated in tissue repair and regeneration. By measuring the concentration of certain cytokines near a wound, researchers can assess how quickly a wound is healing, if there is a new infection or whether or not other medical interventions are required. They were able to amplify the cytokines’ signal by three-to-four orders of magnitude compared with traditional electrode-based aptamer sensing methods.

Although the technology performed well in experiments to sense cytokine signaling, Rivnay says it should be able to amplify signals from any molecule or chemical, including antibodies, hormones or drugs, where the detection scheme uses electrochemical reporters. The big vision is to implement our concept into implantable biosensors or wearable devices that can both sense a problem and then respond it.

Reference : Xudong Ji et al, Organic electrochemical transistors as on-site signal amplifiers for electrochemical aptamer-based sensing, Nature Communications (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-37402-2


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