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Techniques & Tools Sensors, Technology, Clinical

Sensing the Tiniest Change

Molecules that are essential for the body, such as proteins and hormones, can often yield significant insight into a patient’s health status. But most of these molecules are present in the blood in pico- or nanomolar concentrations – comparable to one grain of sugar dissolved in an Olympic swimming pool. The best-known assay to measure such low concentrations outside the body is ELISA, a test in which the sample passes through an elaborate process with multiple steps and biochemical reagents to yield a single concentration value. In contrast, continuous monitoring dynamically follows biomarker concentration in solution, leading to a stream of data rather than an isolated result. For continuous monitoring, molecular binding must be reversible and lead directly to a measurable signal without consumption or production of chemical reactants. The sensing principle should be self-contained, reversible, and stable over a long period of time. Still, the assay should be as sensitive and as specific as ELISA. That’s the challenge we are addressing (1).  

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About the Author

Menno Prins

Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering at Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, The Netherlands.

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