Emerging cytokine biosensors with optical detection modalities and nanomaterial-enabled signal enhancement

Manpreet Singh, Johnson Truong, W. Brian Reeves, Jong In Hahm

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Protein biomarkers, especially cytokines, play a pivotal role in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide spectrum of diseases. Therefore, a critical need for advanced cytokine sensors has been rapidly growing and will continue to expand to promote clinical testing, new biomarker development, and disease studies. In particular, sensors employing transduction principles of various optical modalities have emerged as the most common means of detection. In typical cytokine assays which are based on the binding affinities between the analytes of cytokines and their specific antibodies, optical schemes represent the most widely used mechanisms, with some serving as the gold standard against which all existing and new sensors are benchmarked. With recent advancements in nanoscience and nanotechnology, many of the recently emerging technologies for cytokine detection exploit various forms of nanomaterials for improved sensing capabilities. Nanomaterials have been demonstrated to exhibit exceptional optical properties unique to their reduced dimensionality. Novel sensing approaches based on the newly identified properties of nanomaterials have shown drastically improved performances in both the qualitative and quantitative analyses of cytokines. This article brings together the fundamentals in the literature that are central to different optical modalities developed for cytokine detection. Recent advancements in the applications of novel technologies are also discussed in terms of those that enable highly sensitive and multiplexed cytokine quantification spanning a wide dynamic range. For each highlighted optical technique, its current detection capabilities as well as associated challenges are discussed. Lastly, an outlook for nanomaterial-based cytokine sensors is provided from the perspective of optimizing the technologies for sensitivity and multiplexity as well as promoting widespread adaptations of the emerging optical techniques by lowering high thresholds currently present in the new approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number428
JournalSensors (Switzerland)
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 22 2017


  • Colorimetry
  • Cytokine sensor
  • Evanescent wave
  • Fluorescence
  • Nanobiosensor
  • Optical protein sensor
  • Optical waveguide
  • Photonic crystal
  • Surface plasmon resonance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Information Systems
  • Instrumentation
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Biochemistry


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