Cancer has been one of the most life-threating diseases for humans, and its effective control relies upon early diagnosis. However, conventional detection techniques are based in large hospitals or laboratories. This results in a large sample volume, complex protocol and long testing time, which makes it difficult to have early diagnosis of cancer. Therefore, convenient and cost-effective techniques for early diagnosis of cancer are urgently needed.
Cancer biomarker analysis has been widely used for early cancer detection in clinical analysis. Present technology for the analysis of biomarkers uses molecular biology methods, including western blotting, gel electrophoresis, mass spectrometry, enzyme linked immunosorbent assay and reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. These are normally time-consuming and laborious. For example, western blotting is one of the most common methods to specifically prove the existence of a single protein in a mixture. A semi-quantitative estimation of a protein can be derived from the size and colour intensity of a protein band on the blot membrane. This method is not suitable for early disease detection, since its sensitivity is not high enough to trace the typically subtle changes in biomarker concentration.
Electrochemical bioelectronics are one type of self-contained integrated device, which is capable of providing specific quantitative or semi-quantitative analytical information. They can provide convenient and cost-effective determination of disease biomarkers with high sensitivity and selectivity. Many different kinds of electrochemical bioelectronics have been developed for biomarker analysis in complex bio-environments like living cells and serum. However, with the increasing demands in clinical application for portable assays on simultaneous detection of various cancer biomarkers, it is urgent to develop novel biosensing arrays for on-site testing with low cost.
In this Bio-chip project you will use a microfluidics system to connect the biosensing array with a cell culture chamber to host and monitor living breast cancer cells. The secretion of metabolites (glucose and lactate) and the expression changes of biomarkers (protein, miRNA, DNA) will reflect cancer cell proliferation and aggressive behaviour. As a result, cell growth and spread in the cell culture chamber will be validated by in vitro monitoring of these biomolecules.