Computational design and clinical demonstration of a copper nanocluster based universal immunosensor for sensitive diagnostics†
Nanoparticle based sensors are good alternatives for non-enzymatic sensing applications due to their high stability, superior photoluminescence, biocompatibility and ease of fabrication, with the only disadvantage being the cost of the synthesis process (owing to the expensive precursors and infrastructure). For the first time, we report the design of an immunosensor employing streptavidin conjugated copper nanocluster, developed at a much lower cost compared to other nanomaterials like noble metal nanoparticles and quantum dots. Using in silico tools, we have tried to establish the dynamics of conjugation of nanocluster to the streptavidin protein, based on EDC-NHS coupling. The computational simulations have successfully explained the crucial role played by the components of the immunosensor leading to an efficient design capable of high sensitivity. In order to demonstrate the functioning of the Copper Nanocluster ImmunoSensor (CuNIS), HIV-1 p24 biomarker test was chosen as the model assay. The immunosensor was able to achieve an analytical limit of detection of 23.8 pg mL−1 for HIV-1 p24 with a linear dynamic range of 27–1000 pg mL−1. When tested with clinical plasma samples, CuNIS based p24 assay showed 100% specificity towards HIV-1 p24. With the capability of multiplexed detection and a cost of fabrication 100 times lower than that of the conventional metal nanoclusters, CuNIS has the potential to be an essential low-cost diagnostic tool in resource-limited settings.