Biosensors – A Scientific Breakthrough
Biosensors are the devices that capture the biological signal and convert it into a detectable electrical signal. It involves the combination of biological entities like DNA, RNA, and Proteins/enzymes to the electrochemical transducers in order to detect and observe certain biological analytes like antibody-antigen interaction. These biosensors can be used for the detection of the broad spectrum of biological analytes and have shown greater responses and success in medical laboratories, food bioanalysis, microbial detection etc. Biosensor technology is a new and most studied technology in today’s world. It is an interdisciplinary technology and involves the collaborative efforts of engineering, microbiology, physics, chemistry, biology.
Medically biosensors can be used for accurate and precise detection of tumors, pathogens, elevated blood glucose levels in diabetic patients and other toxins etc. In food industry biosensors could be linked to the detection of gases released from spoiled food, detection of food contamination or for checking and minimizing the growth of bacteria or fungus in fresh foods. In environment, these biosensors could be enhanced to detect pollution in air and presence of any pathogens etc.
In almost all types of cancers, the detection is done using biomarkers. Biomarkers are the way by which cancerous tumors are detected in the body and then are destroyed using chemotherapy. The combination of biomarkers to biosensors would lead to the major breakthrough in detecting all kinds of cancers and fatal diseases. Commonly the most fatal cancer in men is the prostate cancer and in women is the breast cancer. For breast cancer, the biomarker used for detection is the Her-2 (Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor) and it is amplified in all breast cancers more or less up to 33%. For Prostate cancer Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is used for detection.
Linkage of Her-2 biomarker to the biosensor would enhance the tumor detection mechanism and would also let us observe the cause of cancer. Presently the prostate-specific antigen being commonly used in the USA detects prostate cancer tumors but it is inaccurate, if linked to a biosensor, it could lead to the accurate cancer detection with more precision.
One of the major hurdles in the biosensor development is the use of synthetic biological agents and cell surface receptors like antibodies, nucleic acids, enzymes etc. These synthetic receptors are not easily identified and are thus not allowed by the cell to cross the lipid bilayer. For biosensors to function properly they must get entry into cells.
Research work on biological agents could lead to the development of new biosensors that would have potential benefits to the well-being of humans. Nanotechnology plays a pivotal role in that regard as nanomaterials particularly in the form of quantum dots could be modified using receptor elements to detect certain types of tumors and at the same time after detection, they may have the ability to deliver drugs to the tumors. Quantum dots have been enhanced with improved imaging of tumors and thus aid in their early detection in some developed countries. Integration of biological agents to nanomaterials yet remains difficult to achieve practically, although it is being used in many developed countries but with some success.
Good biosensors must have following properties:
- They must be developed for specific analysis purpose; they should be stable under varying temperature conditions and should withstand any chemical and pH change.
- They should be small, cheap and should be provided with proper and specific biological agents for successful invasion in the cells and monitoring.
- They must be prone any kind of cell’s proteolysis action.
Once all developmental hurdles will be overcome then it would be a great success in the history of mankind although it is being used yet its success percentage still needs to be upgraded.
Jazib Ali, Ali Raza, Umer Nadeem, Ahtasham ul Hassan, Saad Ullah.