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Development of a Modular, Fiber Optic Surface Plasmon Resonance Sensor for Quantitation of Diagnostic Proteins for Healing of Burns and Wounds

Principal Investigator:
Karl S. Booksh, Ph.D.

University of Delaware

Dr. Karl S. Booksh is developing a fiber-optic sensor system that can detect a variety of biological molecules. The device is beneficial for spaceflight because it is able to detect infection and would be useful for wound treatment. Employing inexpensive, interchangeable parts, the sensor system will be fast, portable, and will not require lab support from the ground. The sensor system’s modular design will allow expansion to applications beyond wound healing. The technology may ultimately lead to the design of a smart bandage that can monitor wound healing.

NASA Taskbook Entry

Technical Summary

We proposed to develop a fiber optic sensor system capable of in vitro and, ultimately, in vivo quantifying of clinically relevant levels of diagnostic proteins in wounds including burns. The sensor system is designed for rapid field-portable analysis without need for laboratory support. By design, all reagents for sensor preparation and sample analysis will be contained in a small 10 ml to 25 ml vial. The sensor system is modular to allow expansion to multiple analytes and applications beyond wound healing. By constructing the sensors on optical fibers, the sensor system can employ inexpensive, interchangeable sensing elements for specific biological tests with simple automated procedures for preparing the sensing elements for operation. This feature provides flexibility and timely responsiveness to address multiple health-related issues where protein biomarkers have diagnostic value. Also, the fiber optic-based sensing elements may be compatible with future in vivo analyses, and the in vitro development work proposed here will be highly relevant when the in vivo applications are pursued. The sensors use surface plasmon resonance (SPR) on optical fibers to detect the diagnostic biomarkers through immunoassays. The fibers are encapsulated in a thin film polymer housing that prevents cellular fouling of the sensing region. Since the assay is conducted on the surface of an optical fiber, the probes can be used as immersion probes in vitro in drawn fluid, or as minimally-invasive in vivo sensors that can be placed directly on a burn or open wound (future work).

Specific Aims

  1. We can demonstrate our capability to construct polymer housings with pore sizes larger than proteins but smaller than cells to protect and shield the sensors surface.
  2. We have evidence that judicious choice and functionalization of biopolymer scaffolds can simultaneously enhance the sensor sensitivity to target analytes, while significantly reducing the degree of protein fouling on the sensor relative to SPR standard functionalized dextran hydrogel scaffolds.
  3. Preliminary tests in saline solution have demonstrated that the sensor system achieves physiologically relevant detection limits for two of the target biomarkers: tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin 6.

Earth Applications

Working with RSL Medical Systems, we are developing the sensor as a portable diagnostic tool for strokes, heart attacks and wound healing. The idea is that the sensor system and per-analysis cost will be inexpensive such that clinics, rural hospitals and first responders can more rapidly and reliably determine the existence and severity of heart attacks and strokes. Ideally, we will be able to differentiate between ischemic and hemorrhagic events in time to apply appropriate pharmaceutical countermeasures (three hours post-incident). For wound healing, we are aiming at a home-test kit for diabetic ulcers and bedsores.

This project's funding ended in 2008