Technology Combining Carbon Nanotubes and DNA Could Lead to New Biosensors

Bob Michaels

November 15, 2011

2 Min Read
Technology Combining Carbon Nanotubes and DNA Could Lead to New Biosensors

Scientists at Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN) have developed a method for stacking synthetic DNA and carbon nanotubes onto a biosensor electrode. While the technology could further research into diabetes and other diseases by enabling more-accurate measurements, it may also eventually be used to develop sensors that could be used in personalized medicine for testing the effectiveness of drugs on patients.

Standard sensors employ metal electrodes coated with enzymes that react with compounds and produce a measurable electrical signal. However, the inefficiency of such sensors leads to imperfect measurements. And although carbon nanotubes--cylindrically shaped carbon molecules with excellent thermal and electrical properties--are considered a viable alternative for improving sensor performance, they are not fully compatible with water, which limits their application in biological fluids.

Marshall Porterfield, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering and biomedical engineering, and Jong Hyun Choi, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, have found a solution to this problem. As reported in The Analyst, their technology involves the use of a self-assembling sensor based on a DNA sequence that is complementary to carbon nanotubes and is compatible with specific biosensor enzymes for many different compounds. "It will be a self-assembling platform for biosensors at the biomolecular level," Porterfield remarks.

Choi developed synthetic DNA that will attach to the surface of the carbon nanotubes and make them more water-soluble. "Once the carbon nanotubes are in a solution, you only have to place the electrode into the solution and charge it. The carbon nanotubes will then coat the surface," Choi says. Coated with carbon nanotubes, the electrode will attract enzymes to finish assembling the sensor.

While the scientists designed the sensor for measuring glucose, Porterfield comments that it could easily be adapted for a range of compounds. "You could mass produce these sensors for diabetes, for example, for insulin management for diabetic patients."

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