Label-Free Detection of Tobramycin in Serum by Transmission-Localized Surface Plasmon Resonance
In order to improve the efficacy and safety of treatments, drug dosage needs to be adjusted to the actual needs of each patient in a truly personalized medicine approach. Key for widespread dosage adjustment is the availability of point-of-care devices able to measure plasma drug concentration in a simple, automated, and cost-effective fashion. In the present work, we introduce and test a portable, palm-sized transmission-localized surface plasmon resonance (T-LSPR) setup, comprised of off-the-shelf components and coupled with DNA-based aptamers specific to the antibiotic tobramycin (467 Da). The core of the T-LSPR setup are aptamer-functionalized gold nanoislands (NIs) deposited on a glass slide covered with fluorine-doped tin oxide (FTO), which acts as a biosensor. The gold NIs exhibit localized plasmon resonance in the visible range matching the sensitivity of the complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensor employed as a light detector. The combination of gold NIs on the FTO substrate, causing NIs size and pattern irregularity, might reduce the overall sensitivity but confers extremely high stability in high-ionic solutions, allowing it to withstand numerous regeneration cycles without sensing losses. With this rather simple T-LSPR setup, we show real-time label-free detection of tobramycin in buffer, measuring concentrations down to 0.5 mu M. We determined an affinity constant of the aptamer-tobramycin pair consistent with the value obtained using a commercial propagating-wave based SPR. Moreover, our label-free system can detect tobramycin in filtered undiluted blood serum, measuring concentrations down to 10 mu M with a theoretical detection limit of 3.4 mu M. While the association signal of tobramycin onto the aptamer is masked by the serum injection, the quantification of the captured tobramycin is possible during the dissociation phase and leads to a linear calibration curve for the concentrations over the tested range (10-80 mu M). The plasmon shift following surface binding is calculated in terms of both plasmon peak location and hue, with the latter allowing faster data elaboration and real-time display of the results. The presented T-LSPR system shows for the first time label-free direct detection and quantification of a small molecule in the complex matrix of filtered undiluted blood serum. Its uncomplicated construction and compact size, together with the remarkable performances, represent a leap forward toward effective point-of-care devices for therapeutic drug concentration monitoring.