Biosensor Roundup: Sensor Tech Comes to the Defense of Human Health

December 20, 2022 by Jake Hertz

Here is a roundup of some recent biosensor prototypes designed to protect against food-borne illnesses and diseases alike.

Sensors have given rise to many of the most exciting technologies in the field today, including autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things, and wearables. One application of sensor technology that has a tremendous impact on human life is biosensing.


Biosensor from Concordia University

Biosensor from Concordia University that detects spoiled meat. Image courtesy of Concordia University


Closing out 2022, a number of companies and researchers have announced new developments in the biosensing field that can protect human health against food-borne illness and disease. In this article, we’ll look at a few of these announcements to discuss how biosensor hardware is advancing and its effect on the medical and public health sectors.


Sensor Detects Rotten Meat

Earlier this month, researchers from the Shih Microfluidics Lab at Concordia University announced a new system for detecting rotten meats.

The biosensor technology identifies the presence of putrescine, a toxin that can appear in spoiled beef that is linked to vomiting, heart palpitations, and the risk of colorectal cancer. In the researchers' published study, they describe a biosensor that leverages cell-free protein synthesis, which uses the biological processes of a cell to produce proteins. Specifically, their sensor uses the putrescine repressor protein PuuR to indicate the presence of putrescine. 


The working mechanism of the biosensor

The working mechanism of the biosensor. Image courtesy of ACS Applied Bio Materials


The team made a paper-based biosensor, in which putrescine was added to the cell-free system. The solution was then added to a paper device, allowing the researchers to visually identify the presence of putrescine under UV light quickly and reliably.

The team claims this new system represents a fast, inexpensive, and disposable way of sensing the presence of toxins in meat products. Eventually, they believe it can be used to monitor meat quality and guard against food-borne illnesses. 


A New Noninvasive Way to Detect Oral Cancer

Researchers from the University of Florida and the National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University in Taiwan also recently announced a new biosensor—one that can detect oral cancers

Oral squamous cell carcinomas are one of the most common types of lip and oral cancer. The sooner this type of cancer is detected, the more lives can be saved. To date, the standard method to detect oral cancer is through a biopsy, which is invasive, time-consuming, and expensive.


The sensor PCB basic schematic

The sensor PCB basic schematic. Image courtesy of the Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology 


In the team's recently published paper, the researchers designed a biosensor device to detect oral squamous cell carcinomas. The device consisted of a MOSFET-based sensor, in which the output from a modified glucose strip was used to drive the gate of the transistor. Depending on the presence of the cancer cells, the transistor output a higher or lower analog voltage at the drain, which was then detected by a dedicated PCB. 

The sensor showed six orders of magnitude higher sensitivity than commercially available test kits. The team hopes that this can be the first step to developing a rapid, low-cost, and portable immunoassay in medical and diagnostic devices.


Liver-Chips Provide Predictive Toxicology

The final biosensor news in our roundup comes from Emulate, a provider of in-vitro models, which recently announced a new biosensor study.

Emulate’s human Liver-Chips are devices that mimic the human liver in order to test and evaluate the impact of different toxicologies on the human body. In the study published in Nature Communications Medicine, the researchers tested 870 Liver-Chips across a blind set of 27 known hepatotoxic and non-toxic drugs. The results found that using Emulate’s Liver-Chips improved patient safety and reduced small-molecule clinical trial failures due to liver toxicity by up to 87%.


Schematic of the Emulate Liver-Chip

Schematic of the Emulate Liver-Chip. Image courtesy of Nature Communications Medicine


The company claims this most recent study further validates organ-on-chip technology, which can help remove the need for animal testing and speed up the drug testing process. Ultimately, they hope their technology can make new drugs available to people in a way that is faster, cheaper, and safer than previously possible.



As the medical and technology industries become more intertwined, what design challenges do you foresee for biosensors? Share your thoughts in the comments below.