Graphene has been hailed as a wonder material for its remarkable properties. The material, which is made up of pure carbon atoms, has incredible strength, optical and conductive properties, which offer an array of potential applications such as in the development of devices with life-saving uses in the field of medicine.

In a new study, a team of researchers from the University of Swansea in the UK has come up with a highly sensitive biosensor made from graphene which could detect molecules that serve as indicator of an elevated risk for cancer. The newly developed biosensor was found to be even five times more sensitive compared with other bioassay tests that are currently used and its ability to provide results within minutes could pave way to the development of a rapid point-of-care diagnostic tool.

In the study that presented the graphene biosensor, which was published in the journal 2D Materials on Sept. 19, Owen Guy, from the College of Engineering of the Swansea University, and colleagues reported that they have attached bioreceptor molecules to specially patterned graphene devices, which can bind to and target a particular molecule found in the saliva, blood or urine.

The researchers then exposed the biosensor to different levels of concentration of the oxidative stress biomarker 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine, or 8-OHdG, a molecule that is produced when the DNA gets damaged. Increased levels of this molecule are associated with elevated risks for developing certain types of cancer.

The researchers found that the graphene biosensor could detect 8-OHdG concentrations of 0.1 ng mL-1, which is nearly five times more sensitive than the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, or ELISA, which is currently used for clinical biomarker analysis. The newly developed biosensor was also faster when it comes to detecting 8-OHdG as it was able to complete the analysis within minutes.

"The sensor displayed a specific and selective response to the 8-OHdG target biomarker," the researchers wrote. "The electrical response of the functionalized channels to the 8-OHdG analyte in test PBS solutions is complete in a matter of minutes, allowing rapid qualitative detection of the disease biomarker analyte."

With their findings, the researchers pointed out the potential of the graphene biosensor for the diagnosis and monitoring of a range of diseases.

"We will look to investigate a range of different biomarkers associated with different diseases and conditions, as well as detecting a number of different biomarkers on the same chip," Owen said.

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