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Plasmonic Interrogation of Biomimetic Systems for Enhanced Toxicity Assays

  • Author(s): Hinman, Samuel S.
  • Advisor(s): Cheng, Quan
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

In light of their escalating exposure to possible environmental toxicants, there are many biological systems that need to be evaluated in a resource and time efficient manner. Understanding how toxicants behave in relation to their physicochemical properties and within complex biological media is especially important toward developing a stronger scientific foundation of these systems so that adequate regulatory decisions may be made. While there are many emerging methods available for the detection and characterization of these chemicals, nanotechnology has presented itself as a promising alternative toward creating more efficient assays. In particular, metallic nanoparticles and thin films exhibit unique optical properties that allow for highly sensitive and multiplexed studies to be performed. These plasmonic materials often preclude the use of molecular tags and labels, enabling direct characterizations and enhancing the throughput of biomolecular studies. However, their lack of specificity toward certain targets and potential toxicity has thus far precluded their widespread use in toxicity testing.

The cell membrane, a natural signal transducer, represents one of the fundamental structures for biological recognition and communication. These interfaces principally function as a selective barrier to exogenous materials, including ions, signaling molecules, growth factors, and toxins; therefore, understanding interactions at membrane interfaces is a vital step in elucidating how biological responses are effected. Supported lipid bilayers, which may easily be tailored in composition and complexity, are ideal interfaces for coupling to plasmonic assays since they may be supported in close proximity to metallic nanoparticles and thin films, where measurements are most sensitive. This research will focus on the coupling of plasmonic materials and biomimetic interfaces to increase the sensitivity, efficiency, and throughput of conventional toxicity assays. The fabrication of new plasmonic materials for membrane-based assays is presented, as well as method developments in membrane array formation and opportunities for hyphenation with complementary analytical techniques.

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