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Front. Chem. | doi: 10.3389/fchem.2019.00724

Advanced evanescent-wave optical biosensors for the detection of nucleic acids: an analytic perspective

 Cesar S. Huertas1*, Olalla Calvo Lozano2, 3, 4, Arnan Mitchell1 and  Laura M. Lechuga2, 3, 4
  • 1Integrated Photonics and Applications Centre/ School of Engineering, RMIT University, Australia
  • 2Nanobiosensors and Bioanalytical Applications Group, Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (CIN2), Spain
  • 3Center for Biomedical Research in the Network in Bioengineering, Biomaterials and Nanomedicine (CIBER-BBN), Spain
  • 4Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST), Spain

Evanescent-wave optical biosensors have become an attractive alternative for the screening of nucleic acids in the clinical context. They possess highly sensitive transducers able to perform detection of a wide range of nucleic acid-based biomarkers without the need of any label or marker. These optical biosensor platforms are very versatile, allowing the incorporation of an almost limitless range of biorecognition probes precisely and robustly adhered to the sensor surface by covalent surface chemistry approaches. In addition, their application can be further enhanced by their combination with different processes, thanks to their integration with complex and automated microfluidic systems, facilitating the development of multiplexed and user-friendly platforms. The objective of this work is to provide a comprehensive synopsis of cutting-edge analytical strategies based on these label-free optical biosensors able to deal with the drawbacks related to DNA and RNA detection, from single point mutations assays and epigenetic alterations, to bacterial infections. Several plasmonic and silicon photonic-based biosensors are described together with their most recent applications in this area. We also identify and analyse the main challenges faced when attempting to harness this technology and how several innovative approaches introduced in the last years manage those issues, including the use of new biorecognition probes, surface functionalization approaches, signal amplification and enhancement strategies, as well as, sophisticated microfluidic solutions.

Keywords: Biosensors, Plasmonics, silicon photonics, Microfluidics, Nucleic acid analysis, epigenetics, Surface chemistry, clinical diagnosis

Received: 13 Aug 2019; Accepted: 10 Oct 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Huertas, Calvo Lozano, Mitchell and Lechuga. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Cesar S. Huertas, RMIT University, Integrated Photonics and Applications Centre/ School of Engineering, Melbourne, Australia,