Changes in protein glycosylation have great potential as markers for the early diagnosis of cancer and other diseases. The current analytical tools for the analysis of glycan structures need expensive instrumentation, advanced expertise, is time consuming and therefore not practical for routine screening of glycan biomarkers from human samples in a clinical setting.
We are developing a novel ultrasensitive diagnostic platform called ‘NanoMonitor’ to enable rapid label-free glycosylation analysis. The technology is based on electrochemical impedance spectroscopy where capacitance changes are measured at the electrical double layer interface as a result of interaction of two molecules.
The NanoMonitor platform consists of a printed circuit board with array of electrodes forming multiple sensor spots. Each sensor spot is overlaid with a nanoporous alumina membrane that forms a high density of nanowells. Lectins, proteins that bind to and recognize specific glycan structures, are conjugated to the surface of nanowells. When specific glycoproteins from a test sample bind to lectins in the nanowells, it produces a perturbation to the electrical double layer at the solid/liquid interface at the base of each nanowell. This perturbation results in a change in the impedance of the double layer which is dominated by the capacitance changes within the electrical double layer.
The nanoscale confinement or crowding of biological macromolecules within the nanowells is likely to enhance signals from the interaction of glycoproteins with the lectins leading to a high sensitivity of detection with the NanoMonitor as compared to other electrochemical techniques.
Using a panel of lectins, we were able to detect subtle changes in the glycosylation of fetuin protein as well as differentiate glycoproteins from normal versus cancerous cells. Our results indicate that NanoMonitor can be used as a cost-effective miniature electronic biosensor for the detection of glycan biomarkers.