A team has developed a prototype of the “lab-on-a-chip” system that can measure substances with sensors made from synthetic nanopores, as part of the LOEWE project, iNAPO. The groups were led by Wolfgang Ensinger, Professor, Materials Technology and Helmut Schlaak, Professor, Electrical Engineering and Information Technology, TU Darmstadt. Other participants in the project include Ivana Duznovic, Chemist, and Mario El Khoury, Electrical Engineer. The scientists used biological nanopores integrated into cell membranes, to ensure that substances can be transferred from the inside to the outside or the other way round. The nanopores act as either sluices or selective transport systems that are specialized in certain substances.
Biological nanopores are known to possess unparalleled performance capacity. These are typically unsuitable for technical applications as they are fragile, which is why Ensinger and Duznovic decided to use synthetic nanopores, which they enhanced with a chemical or biological sensor, giving the surfaces of the nanopores corresponding functionality. Ensinger says that they aim to develop a new generation of sensors that, when closely aligned to their biological models, yield high sensitivity and performance capability. Schlaak adds that when the bio-inspired sensors are integrated into a microfluid system with portable analysis electronics, it results in a “lab-on-a-chip” system. In the next stage of the study, the team will work on developing the “lab-on-a-chip” system.
Schlaak says that they already have a functional microchip, although there are still some issues that need to be resolved as the verification should not only be able to run in watery solutions but also a blood sample. As the team wants to re-use the chip due to monetary limitations and as this is virtually possible due to the nanopores’ ability to regenerate, there should be no contamination of subsequent results due to the previous usage. In the next step, the team wants to equip the surfaces of the nanoprobes for the verification of proteins to identify complex biomarkers. El Khoury says that they are looking for candidates and have already started working with Mainz University Hospital.