A cell-based immunobiosensor with engineered molecular recognition - Part I: Design feasibility

Vincent Pizziconi, Darren L. Page

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


A novel bioelectronic sensor is described in which living immune cells are transformed into unique biotransducer couples by engineering their molecular recognition for preselected antigens of clinical interest. This 'hybrid' biosensor, constructed with mast cells interfaced to a microfabricated thermoelectric device with the use of biomolecular linkages, is capable of detecting antigens in real time by transducing minute heat changes arising from antigen-induced mast cell activation processes. The thermoelectric approach was selected based upon preliminary bioenergetic calculations which indicated that metabolic changes arising from mast cell antigen recognition result in a significant increase in exothermic heat relative to basal metabolic conditions. Experimental studies confirmed that mast cell activation and degranulation can be discriminated thermally from basal metabolic activity. Results obtained from microcalorimetry experiments using cultured mast cells (MC/9 mucosal-like mast cell line), and harvested mast cells (rat peritoneal mast cells) indicated that detectable increases in heat output (~3 ± 0.5 pW/cell, mean peak output) immediately followed cell activation. The construction of a miniature hybrid immunobiosensor device was made possible by bioelectronic coupling achieved with the use of cellular adhesive proteins that immobilized non-adherent (MC/9) cells as well as adherent (RBL-2H3 rat basophilic leukemia) cells to the thermopile. Results from preliminary tests conducted on a hybrid biosensor prototype validated the design feasibility of a miniature, living cell immunodiagnostic biosensor. Such cell-based hybrid biosensor approaches may greatly extend the capability for selective rapid, on-site, antigen detection for a wide range of clinically relevant antigens and offer new approaches to in vitro diagnostics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-299
Number of pages13
JournalBiosensors and Bioelectronics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1997


  • ECM proteins
  • activation
  • antigen
  • cell metabolism
  • degranulation
  • hybrid biosensor
  • immunobiosensor
  • mast cell
  • microcalorimetry
  • molecular recognition
  • thin-film thermopile

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biophysics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Electrochemistry


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