The innovative nanofluid device measures individual proteins

June 23, 2023

(Nanowerk News) An international team led by Professor Yan Xu of Osaka Metropolitan University has developed an innovative nanofluid device, named NANa, capable of stochastic capture and digital detection of individual proteins at cellular concentrations. This tool, essential for precision medicine, is designed to handle small volumes equivalent to the contents of a single cell and can identify single biomolecules even in high concentration environments.

The team plans to carry out further demonstrations using actual cell samples and explore the integration of this tool with artificial intelligence (AI) and biological big data. This research has the potential to revolutionize personalized disease prevention and treatment.

The research results are planned to be published in Small (“Nanofluidic aptamer nanoarray to enable stochastic capture of single proteins at normal concentrations”). Schematic illustration of the NANa principle for stochastic capture and digital detection of single proteins. (Image: Yan Xu, Osaka Metropolitan University)

In the ever-evolving world of precision medicine, the need for methods that can measure biomolecules with the highest accuracy and specificity is paramount. Realizing this, Associate Professor Yan Xu of the Graduate School of Engineering at Osaka Metropolitan University and his international team of researchers have taken major steps in this direction. They have developed an innovative nanofluid device capable of stochastically capturing single proteins and digitally detecting them at their high natural concentrations. This breakthrough has the potential to lay the foundation for the future of personalized disease prevention and treatment.

Precision medicine aims to tailor prevention and treatment strategies based on an individual’s genetic data, environmental factors, lifestyle, and other determinants. Integrated with this is the accurate measurement of biomolecules, such as genes and proteins, in a single cell. However, to date, there has been no tool capable of simultaneously handling minuscule volumes of a single cell’s contents – usually on the order of picoliters (10−12 L) – and quantify biomolecules in a high-concentration cellular environment.

The device, named the Nanofluidic Aptamer Nanoarray (or NANa for short), is a nanochannel-based chip designed for the digital assay of individual molecules in very small sample volumes equivalent to a single cell. Using synthetic antibodies known as aptamers, NANa can stochastically capture and digitally detect single molecules of target proteins even in high concentration samples. These aptamers, which bind to specific molecules, are tightly packed within the nanochannels of the device.

Going forward, the researchers plan to carry out practical demonstrations with actual cell samples, digitize the obtained measurement data, and explore the potential integration of AI-based image recognition technology and biological big data. “Humans are complex organisms composed of a large number of cells,” explained Professor Xu. “We hope NANa, which digitizes information about the number of biomolecules in individual cells, will serve as a bridge between life sciences and information science, paving the way for precision medicine in the future.”

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