Handheld device for biomarker cancer detection

La Trobe researchers are investigating a longstanding challenge in the use of electrochemical biosensors for biological fluids such as blood

Dr Saimon Moraes Silva has pioneered a novel approach to tackle a longstanding challenge in the use of electrochemical biosensors for direct use in biological fluids such as blood.

“An electrochemical biosensor is a sensing device that can rapidly detect specific biological molecules,” explains Dr Moraes Silva.

“Glucose meters are a great example of the impact electrochemical biosensors can have on the management of diseases, like diabetes. However, the effectiveness of these life-changing devices has not yet been translated to the detection of many other relevant biomarkers, like those associated with cancer.”

According to Dr Moraes Silva, one of the main reasons why the glucose meter success has not been replicated to other diseases diagnosis and monitoring is because of the absorption of unwanted molecules on the electrode surface of the electrochemical biosensor.

“This contamination of unwanted molecules leads to electrode fouling; which blocks the necessary electron transfer pathways and results in the sensor malfunctioning. This issue is one of the main reasons why electrochemical biosensors have not yet been commercialised for cancer detection,” he adds.

Through his research, Dr Moraes Silva made a significant breakthrough to address the issue of electrode fouling.

“I discovered that lubricin, a type of glycoprotein, could be used as an electrode surface coating to prevent electrode fouling. It was this discovery that enabled the development of a lubricin-based biosensor technology,” says Dr Moraes Silva.

Dr Moraes Silva is working hard to translate this new technology into a new diagnostic device. “If successful, people with cancer will have increased access to low-cost tests for early diagnosis, monitoring disease progression, and evaluating the effectiveness of treatments. In the future we also hope to expand this technology to the detection of other biomolecules.”