Implantable sensors that detect biomarkers in vivo are critical for early disease diagnostics. Although many colloidal nanomaterials have been developed into optical sensors to detect biomolecules in vitro, their application in vivo as implantable sensors is hindered by potential migration or clearance from the implantation site. One potential solution is incorporating colloidal nanosensors in hydrogel scaffold prior to implantation. However, direct contact between the nanosensors and hydrogel matrix has the potential to disrupt sensor performance. Here, we develop a hollow-microcapsule-based sensing platform that protects colloidal nanosensors from direct contact with hydrogel matrix. Using microfluidics, colloidal nanosensors were encapsulated in polyethylene glycol microcapsules with liquid cores. The microcapsules selectively trap the nanosensors within the core while allowing free diffusion of smaller molecules such as glucose and heparin. Glucose-responsive quantum dots or gold nanorods or heparin-responsive gold nanorods were each encapsulated. Microcapsules loaded with these sensors showed responsive optical signals in the presence of target biomolecules (glucose or heparin). Furthermore, these microcapsules can be immobilized into biocompatible hydrogel as implantable devices for biomolecular sensing. This technique offers new opportunities to extend the utility of colloidal nanosensors from solution-based detection to implantable device-based detection.
- biomolecular sensing
- microfluidic fabrication