Ultratrace level determination and quantitative analysis of kidney injury biomarkers in patient samples attained by zinc oxide nanorods†
Determining ultratrace amounts of protein biomarkers in patient samples in a straightforward and quantitative manner is extremely important for early disease diagnosis and treatment. Here, we successfully demonstrate the novel use of zinc oxide nanorods (ZnO NRs) in the ultrasensitive and quantitative detection of two acute kidney injury (AKI)-related protein biomarkers, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and interleukin (IL)-8, directly from patient samples. We first validate the ZnO NRs-based IL-8 results via comparison with those obtained from using a conventional enzyme-linked immunosorbent method in samples from 38 individuals. We further assess the full detection capability of the ZnO NRs-based technique by quantifying TNF-α, whose levels in human urine are often below the detection limits of conventional methods. Using the ZnO NR platforms, we determine the TNF-α concentrations of all 46 patient samples tested, down to the fg per mL level. Subsequently, we screen for TNF-α levels in approximately 50 additional samples collected from different patient groups in order to demonstrate a potential use of the ZnO NRs-based assay in assessing cytokine levels useful for further clinical monitoring. Our research efforts demonstrate that ZnO NRs can be straightforwardly employed in the rapid, ultrasensitive, quantitative, and simultaneous detection of multiple AKI-related biomarkers directly in patient urine samples, providing an unparalleled detection capability beyond those of conventional analysis methods. Additional key advantages of the ZnO NRs-based approach include a fast detection speed, low-volume assay condition, multiplexing ability, and easy automation/integration capability to existing fluorescence instrumentation. Therefore, we anticipate that our ZnO NRs-based detection method will be highly beneficial for overcoming the frequent challenges in early biomarker development and treatment assessment, pertaining to the facile and ultrasensitive quantification of hard-to-trace biomolecules.