This study demonstrates the rapid and label-free detection of Interleukin-6 (IL-6) using carbon nanotube micro-arrays with aptamer as the molecular recognition element. Single wall carbon nanotubes micro-arrays biosensors were manufactured using photo-lithography, metal deposition, and etching techniques. Nanotube biosensors were functionalized with 1-Pyrenebutanoic Acid Succinimidyl Ester (PASE) conjugated IL-6 aptamers. Real time response of the sensor conductance was monitored with increasing concentration of IL-6 (1 pg/mL to 10 ng/mL), exposure to the sensing surface in buffer solution, and clinically relevant spiked blood samples. Non-specific Bovine Serum Albumin (BSA), PBS samples, and anti-IgG functionalized devices gave similar signatures in the real time conductance versus time experiments with no significant change in sensor signal. Exposure of the aptamer functionalized nanotube surface to IL-6 decreased the conductance with increasing concentration of IL-6. Experiments based on field effect transistor arrays suggested shift in drain current versus gate voltage for 1 pg and 1 ng of IL-6 exposure. Non-specific BSA did not produce any appreciable shift in the Ids
suggesting specific interactions of IL-6 on PASE conjugated aptamer surface gave rise to the change in electrical signal. Both Z axis and phase image in an Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) suggested unambiguous molecular interaction of the IL-6 on the nanotube-aptamer surface at 1 pg/mL concentration. The concentration of 1 pg falls below the diagnostic gray zone for cancer (2.3 pg-4 ng/mL), which is an indicator of early stage cancer. Thus, nanotube micro-arrays could potentially be developed for creating multiplexed assays involving cancer biomarker proteins and possibly circulating tumor cells all in a single assay using PASE functionalization protocol.
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