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Innovative biosensor technology created for stem cell therapy

Image credit: Catalin Iliescu - Dreamstime

Researchers from the US have developed a biosensor that may help lead to safe stem cell therapies for treating Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and other neurological disorders.

The device, created by a team from Rutgers University in New Jersey, features a unique graphene and gold-based platform and high-tech imaging and monitors the fate of stem cells by detecting genetic material (RNA) involved in turning such cells into brain cells (neurons).

Stem cells can become many different types of cells. As a result, stem cell therapy shows promise for regenerative treatment of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke and spinal cord injury, with diseased cells needing replacement or repair.

However, characterising stem cells and controlling their fate must be resolved before they could be used in treatments – and the formation of tumours and uncontrolled transformation of stem cells remain key barriers.

“A critical challenge is ensuring high sensitivity and accuracy in detecting biomarkers – indicators such as modified genes or proteins – within the complex stem cell microenvironment,” said KiBum Lee, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.

“Our technology, which took four years to develop, has demonstrated great potential for analysing a variety of interactions in stem cells,” he added.

This unique biosensing platform consists of an array of ultrathin graphene layers and gold nanostructures. The platform, combined with high-tech imaging (Raman spectroscopy), detects genetic material (RNA) and characterises different kinds of stem cells with greater reliability, selectivity and sensitivity than today's biosensors.

Image credit: Letao Yang, KiBum Lee, Jin-Ho Lee and Sy-Tsong (Dean) Chueng

To overcome this challenge, the team’s biosensing platform consists of an array of ultra-thin graphene layers and gold nanostructures. And when combined with high-tech imaging (Raman spectroscopy), the platform detects genes and characterises different kinds of kinds of stem cells with greater reliability, selectivity and sensitivity than today’s biosensors, the researcher claimed.

The team believes the technology can benefit a range of applications. By developing simple, rapid and accurate sensing platforms, Lee’s group also aims to facilitate treatment of neurological disorders through stem cell therapy.

According to the National Institutes of Health in the US, stem cells may become key in the replacement cells and tissues to treat diseases including macular degeneration, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The study by the Rutgers-led team was published in Nano Letters.

In January, scientists from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland said they were testing a new way to a new way to spur bone growth by using tiny vibrations to transform stem cells into healthy bones

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