Metal enhanced fluorescence biosensing: from ultra-violet towards second near-infrared window
To increase disease survival rates, there is a vital need for diagnosis at very preliminary stages. Then, low concentrations of biomarkers are present which must be effectively detected and quantified for reliable diagnosis. Fluorescent biosensing is commonly enabled through the labelling of these biomarkers with nanostructures and fluorophores. Metal Enhanced Fluorescence (MEF) is a phenomenon whereby the intensity of a fluorescent biosensor signal can be considerably enhanced by placing a metallic nanostructure and fluorophore in close proximity. Importantly, this allows for an even lower detection limit and thus earlier diagnosis. In recent years, extraordinary efforts have been made in the understanding of how the chemical and physical properties of nanomaterials may be exploited advantageously. Via precise nanoscale engineering, it is possible to optimize the optical properties of plasmonic nanomaterials, which now need to be refined and applied in diagnostics. Through MEF, the intensity of this signal can be related in direct proportion to analyte concentration, allowing for diagnosis of disease at an earlier stage than previously. This review paper outlines the potential and recent progress of applied MEF biosensors, highlighting their substantial clinical potential. MEF biosensors are presented both upon assay-based platforms and in solution, with comments on the various metallic nanoparticle morphologies available. This is explored across various emission wavelengths from ultra-violet to the second near infrared window (NIR-II), emphasising their wide applicability. Further to this, the importance of near infrared (NIR-I and NIR-II) biosensing is made clear as it allows for higher penetration in biological media. Finally, by developing multiplexing techniques, multiple and simultaneous analyses of analytes can be achieved. Through the incorporation of metal enhanced fluorescence into biosensing, it will be possible to diagnose disease more rapidly and more reliably than before, with the potential to save countless lives.