Flexible sensor to speed up inflammation test

15 July 2018

The c-reactive protein test is a blood test marker for inflammation in the body. It helps doctors to understand the causes of illness and to monitor the activity of certain diseases in their patients. A rise in c-reactive protein indicates an inflammatory condition in patients, but the analysis takes hours to complete and the test has to be done repeatedly to keep track of the condition.

Professor Aimin Xu (Croucher Senior Research Fellowship 2016) of the University of Hong Kong and a team of mechanical engineers have developed an ultra-flexible c-reactive protein sensor integrated onto a medical catheter for immediate protein sensing.

Several research groups around the world are working to develop thinner and smaller devices to speed up response times. This is particularly important for applications such as medical diagnostics where immediate information is needed.

The sensor can also be transferred onto different medical devices

The organic sensor developed by Xu measures biological information in real-time and can detect the amount of c-reactive protein in the blood down from 10 mg/L to 1 ug/mL. The organic sensor is less than one micrometre thick and gives a readout within 10 minutes. This real-time signal readout allows doctors to take immediate action if needed.

The device can also withstand standard hospital sterilisation. It comes with an encapsulation layer that protects it from high pressure, temperature and moist environments. With this capsule, the sensor device can withstand boiling water or hot steam for more than 30 minutes without showing performance degradation.

The research finding was published recently in journal Advanced Science.

“We hope to enhance the sensing power by integrating neurotransmitter and pressure sensors onto the catheter,” said Xu.

Other than detecting protein in blood, Xu hopes to apply the technology for measuring other biomarkers such as neurotransmitters or other information from the cerebrospinal fluid which are useful for treating head injury or strokes. The data can be used to develop a system to continuously measure and monitor various valuable biomedical information from the brain or other parts of the body for immediate treatment.

Professor Ka-kit Leung, Vice-President of the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine said the new sensor can greatly relieve medical burden. “With the sensor, remote healthcare monitoring can be made possible. Older people can conduct regular check-ups at home.”

Professor Aimin Xu is currently a professor jointly appointed by the Department of Medicine and the Department of Pharmacology & Pharmacy, and also the director for State Key Laboratory of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology at the University of Hong Kong. He received his BS (Hons) in medicine at Anhui Medical University in China in 1989 and his PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand in 1999. He received his postdoctoral training at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland working on the proteomic identification of novel adipocyte-derived factors involved in obesity and insulin resistance.

To view Professor Xu’s Croucher profile, please click here