Highly sensitive and specific detection of tumor cells based on a split aptamer-triggered dual hybridization chain reaction†
Highly sensitive and specific detection of rare tumor cells is urgently needed for early tumor diagnosis. Herein, a split aptamer-based dual hybridization chain reaction (dual-HCR) strategy with flow cytometry analysis was developed to meet this purpose. With the split aptamer pair as the recognition unit and HCR as the signal amplification technique, this strategy achieved an improved detection limit as low as 20 cells in 200 μL binding buffer. Meanwhile, this method was highly specific with distinct recognition of the target cells from the control cell and mixed cell samples. Furthermore, we succeeded in the specific detection of the target cells in 50% human serum, demonstrating that this method has great potential in clinical applications. In theory, this strategy can be used to detect different target cells by using different split aptamers. Therefore, this general, sensitive and specific tumor cell detection method may be helpful for early clinical diagnosis and cancer research.