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Analyst. 2013 Feb 21;138(3):863-72. doi: 10.1039/c2an36192b. Epub 2012 Dec 6.

Tackling reproducibility in microcantilever biosensors: a statistical approach for sensitive and specific end-point detection of immunoreactions.

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  • 1Instituto de Microelectrónica de Madrid, CSIC, Issac Newton 8, 28760 Tres Cantos, Madrid, Spain.


In the last decade, microcantilever biosensors have shown enormous potential for highly sensitive label-free detection of nucleic acid and proteins. Despite the enormous advances, the promise of applications of this technology in the biomedical field has been frustrated because of its low reproducibility. Here we tackle the reproducibility issue in microcantilever biosensors and provide the guidelines to minimize the deviations in the biosensor response between different assays. We use as a model system the label-free end-point detection of horseradish peroxidase. We choose the end-point detection mode because of its suitability for implementation in the clinical field that requires simplicity and point-of-care capability. Our study comprises the analysis of 1012 cantilevers with different antibody surface densities, two blocking strategies based on polyethylene-glycol (PEG) and bovine serum albumin (BSA) and stringent controls. The study reveals that the performance of the assay critically depends on both antibody surface density and blocking strategies. We find that the optimal conditions involve antibody surface densities near but below saturation and blocking with PEG. We find that the surface stress induced by the antibody-antigen binding is significantly correlated with the surface stress generated during the antibody attachment and blocking steps. The statistical correlation is harnessed to identify immobilization failure or success, and thus enhancing the specificity and sensitivity of the assay. This procedure enables achieving rates of true positives and true negatives of 90% and 91% respectively. The detection limit is of 10 ng mL(-1) (250 pM) that is similar to the detection limit obtained in our enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and at least two orders of magnitude smaller than that achieved with well-established label-free biosensors such as a quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) and surface plasmon resonance (SPR) sensor.

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