Researchers are designing an ultra-sensitive biosensor that would allow people to perform their own diagnostics at home, detecting diseases in the early stages.

Photo Credit: © ErickN -

Photo Credit: © ErickN -

Researchers are working on a new sensor, called plasmonic biosensors, which would be a low-cost solution to personalized medicine. This high-sensitivity sensor would allow people to diagnose themselves at the early stages of diseases. The process would work by detecting biomarkers and proteins in blood and/or saliva

The European Union is funding a project called NANOANTENNA, which was completed in March 2013. The project had physicists, chemists, nanotechnologists and biomedical researchers working together to develop a plasmonic nanobiosensor to detect proteins. The completed product was made up of nanoantennas, which are gold rods between 100 and 200 nanometers long, and 60 to 80 nm wide.

The sensors work by shining a light onto the nanoantennas to trigger electrons that start moving inside. This amplifies the light radiation in "hot spot" regions in the antenna. Bioreceptors, fragments of DNA designed to recognize specific types of proteins, were attached to the nanoantennas. When these nanoantennas are incubated on a solution containing specific biomarkers, the biomarkers attach themselves to the nanoantennas. When a light shines on the nanoantennas, they show the "fingerprints" of the bioreceptor and biomarker.

A portable, low-cost diagnostics tool could help people diagnose themselves at home, which would lead to early detection. With that comes a higher chance of survival. A tool such as this one could also help physicians in the developing world, where large and costly diagnostics tools are not available.