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Graphene Biosensor Is Faster and More Sensitive Than ELISA

New tool for early cancer diagnosis is five times as sensitive and capable of delivering analyses in minutes

2 min read
Graphene Biosensor Is Faster and More Sensitive Than ELISA
Illustration: Swansea University/IOP Publishing

With its attractive electrical conductivity properties and its large surface to volume ratio, graphene has always presented an attractive possibility for researchers looking to develop new generations of biosensors.

Researchers at Swansea University in the UK have been able to exploit those properties in graphene by developing a technique to produce it over a large area with consistent quality.

In research published in the Institute of Physics journal 2D Materials, the researchers achieved improved size and quality by abandoning the traditional exfoliation technique and instead producing it with an epitaxial growth method that deposits the graphene on a large, semi-insulating substrate of silicon carbide.

After creating device patterns on the graphene with semiconductor processing techniques, the researchers attached bioreceptor molecules. The molecules serve to bind target molecules that are found in blood, saliva or urine. In this case, the target molecule was 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-OHdG), which is produced when DNA is damaged. When it appears at elevated levels, it is a reliable indicator of an increased risk of developing several cancers.

When the 8-OHdG molecules are present in a sample, they cause a change in the channel resistance in the biosensor. Based on this method, the researchers were able to detect the molecule at concentrations as low as 0.1 nanograms per milliliter. This five times as sensitive as enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs), which are currently used for biomarker analysis. Not only was the graphene-based nanosensor more sensitive, it was a good deal faster than an ELISA test, completing its analysis of a sample in minutes.

“Now that we’ve created the first proof-of-concept biosensor using epitaxial graphene, we will look to investigate a range of different biomarkers associated with different diseases and conditions, as well as detecting a number of different biomarkers on the same chip,” said Dr. Owen Guy, a co-author of the study, in a press release.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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