Nanotechnology platforms for clinical diagnostics

A major challenge in clinical medicine is to establish reliable, highly-specific diagnostic assays for informed clinical decision. Biosensors based on nanotechnology are promising platforms for such medical diagnostics. Nanostructures, with their unique size and physical properties, can efficiently recognize biomolecules, and subsequently generate distinctive analytical signals. We have been developing different types of nanotechnology platforms designed for specific clinical applications. This presentation will review the nPLEX (nanoplasmonic exosome) platform that is optimized for high-throughput exosome analyses. Exosomes are nanoscale vesicles shed by tumor cells. These vesicles carry biomolecules of their originating cells (e.g., proteins, mRNA, microRNA), and can thus serve as cellular surrogates. The nPLEX uses the principle of extraordinary optical transmission to sensitively detect these exosomes. The sensor consists of periodic nanohole arrays that generate intense surface plasmon resonance; each array is functionalized with antibodies to profile exosome protein targets. The strategy is ideal for exosome detection, as the probing depth (< 200 nm) of the sensor is matched to exosome size. We applied the first generation nPLEX to profile cancer-derived exosomes in patient samples. Our data showed promising potential of using exosome diagnostics to monitor the tumor progression and treatment responses. Further clinical investigations are underway to rigorously evaluate the clinical utility of exosomes for cancer managements.

leeHakho Lee, Ph.D. is Associate Professor in Radiology at Harvard Medical School, and Director of the Biomedical Engineering Program at the Center for Systems Biology (CSB), Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). He received his Ph.D. in Physics from Harvard University (Advisor: Robert M. Westervelt), and completed his post-doctoral training at MGH under Dr. Weissleder. Dr. Lee has extensive experience in nanomaterials, biophysics, microfluidics, and electrical engineering. His research focuses on developing new biosensor technologies, and has been leading the Biomedical Engineering Program at CSB.