Biosensor for stem cells could lead to Alzheimer’s therapies

(Credit: Getty Images)

New biosensor technology monitors the fate of stem cells by detecting genetic material involved in turning such cells into brain cells, according to a study.

The technology, which features a unique graphene and gold-based platform and high-tech imaging, may lead to safe stem cell therapies for treating Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and other neurological disorders, researchers report.

Stem cells can become many different types of cells. As a result, stem cell therapy shows promise for regenerative treatment of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, and spinal cord injury, with diseased cells needing replacement or repair. But researchers must solve the problem of characterizing the cells and controlling their fate before they can use them in treatments. The formation of tumors and uncontrolled transformation of stem cells remain key barriers.

“A critical challenge is ensuring high sensitivity and accuracy in detecting biomarkers—indicators such as modified genes or proteins—within the complex stem cell microenvironment,” says senior author KiBum Lee, a professor in the chemistry and chemical biology department at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “Our technology, which took four years to develop, has demonstrated great potential for analyzing a variety of interactions in stem cells.”

The team’s unique biosensing platform consists of an array of ultrathin graphene layers and gold nanostructures. The platform, combined with high-tech imaging (Raman spectroscopy), detects genes and characterizes different kinds of stem cells with greater reliability, selectivity, and sensitivity than today’s biosensors.

The team believes the technology can benefit a range of applications. By developing simple, rapid, and accurate sensing platforms, Lee’s group aims to facilitate treatment of neurological disorders through stem cell therapy.

Stem cells may become a renewable source of replacement cells and tissues to treat diseases including macular degeneration, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, according to the National Institutes of Health.

The research appears in the journal Nano Letters.

Additional researchers from Rutgers and Sogang University in South Korea contributed to the study.

Source: Rutgers University