The following is a summary of the introductory Editorial from the August Journal of Materials Research Focus issue on Two-Dimensional Nanomaterials for Biosensors.

Biomolecules functionalized on the surface of atomic thickness single layer 2D materials combine the exceptional electronic properties and the stereospecificity of host and guest molecular entities. However, it is a challenge to functionalize biomolecules retaining their 3D structural integrity after deposition or conjugation to the surface of a 2D nanomaterial.  Engineering the interface between electronic materials and biomolecules is critical in integrating functional bio-inspired devices and realizing new technologies like in vitro Point-of-Care (POC) sensors for disease detection and monitoring. Much more challenging are sensors for implantation into living systems.

Biosensors and POC devices for monitoring of multiple biomarkers, implantable devices, and non-invasive monitoring systems have significantly improved in accuracy over the last twenty years. A good example is glucose sensors, which have been developed and refined significantly for over five decades. However, even with substantial effort, there continue to be several challenges related to accuracy and reliability. The ability to combine the exceptional electrical properties of emerging nanomaterials, both carbon and non-carbon-based, with the stereospecific functionality of biological macromolecules offers promising new avenues in diagnosis and treatment.

The excellent electrical properties of graphene augur well for the next generation of handheld, ultra-portable devices for personal health-care monitoring by the patient. One could envision that with the revolution in wireless-based mobile multimedia, these handheld devices might be able to transmit the information to a physician or hospital for timely intervention. For instance, early detection of infections in patients via home monitoring could allow early medical response rather than later when they are at an acute phase. This type of monitoring would minimize costs and hospitalizations, resulting in overall savings for the economy. Another potential application is screening tests for early detection of cancer biomarkers, and early diagnosis could enable treatment prior to metastasis, increasing the odds of survival.

Emerging cell—based biosensors that incorporate living materials like a pancreas-on-a-chip are naturally endowed with ultra-sensitive detection of a host of biomarkers and are capable of maintaining an equilibrium in situ. Much future research will be targeted towards technologies to enable these and the next generation of point of care devices.

Read the Introductory Editorial, by Guest Editors Venkatesan Renugopalakrishnan, Pulickel M. Ajayan, Dorian Liepmann, Catherine Klapperich, Sowmya Viswanathan

Access to the full Focus Issue is available through September 30, 2017 


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