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Biosens Bioelectron. 2000;15(11-12):597-604.

Optical chip immunoassay for hCG in human whole blood.

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Photonic Sensor, Atlanta, GA 30360, USA.


We report on the development of an integrated optic chip sensor for performing rapid and sensitive immunoassays with human whole blood using human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) as the model system. The optical chip is based on the Hartman interferometer, which uses a single planar lightbeam to address multiple interferometers, each comprising a signal/reference pair of sensing regions. The binding of antigen to specific capture antibodies on the signal sensing region causes a change in the refractive index of the surface layer, which is detectable by its effect on the evanescent field of the guided lightbeam. The reference-sensing region is coated with an irrelevant antibody, which optically cancels a large fraction of the non-specific adsorption that occurs on the specific-sensing region when the sensor is tested with clinical specimens. This work extends previous experiments with buffer and human serum to measurements in undiluted whole human blood. Optical chips were stored dry after surface functionalization, and rehydrated with blood. Colloidal gold nanoparticles conjugated to a second anti-hCG monoclonal antibody were used to provide signal amplification, thereby enhancing assay sensitivity, in a one-step procedure with the gold conjugate added to the test sample immediately prior to measurement. Background signals due to non-specific binding (NSB) in blood were found to be higher than those previously reported with human serum. In addition, a high level of background signal was found with the gold conjugate, which had not been observed in experiments with either buffer or serum. Nevertheless, hCG could be detected at 0.5 ng/ml within 10 min of sample application. The sensor response was linear over the concentration range 0.5-5 ng/ml hCG, as compared with the clinically-relevant range 0.3-1.5 ng/ml. Detection at higher concentrations was affected by scattering from large amounts of bound gold nanoparticles. However, initial binding rate measurements could be used to maintain assay quantitation.

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