Optical Nanosensors for Real-Time Feedback on Insulin Secretion by β-Cells

Roni Ehrlich, Adi Hendler-Neumark, Verena Wulf, Dean Amir, Gili Bisker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Quantification of insulin is essential for diabetes research in general, and for the study of pancreatic β-cell function in particular. Herein, fluorescent single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNT) are used for the recognition and real-time quantification of insulin. Two approaches for rendering the SWCNT sensors for insulin are compared, using surface functionalization with either a natural insulin aptamer with known affinity to insulin, or a synthetic lipid-poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) (C16-PEG(2000Da)-Ceramide), both of which show a modulation of the emitted fluorescence in response to insulin. Although the PEGylated-lipid has no prior affinity to insulin, the response of C16-PEG(2000Da)-Ceramide-SWCNTs to insulin is more stable and reproducible compared to the insulin aptamer-SWCNTs. The SWCNT sensors successfully detect insulin secreted by β-cells within the complex environment of the conditioned media. The insulin is quantified by comparing the SWCNTs fluorescence response to a standard calibration curve, and the results are found to be in agreement with an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. This novel analytical tool for real time quantification of insulin secreted by β-cells provides new opportunities for rapid assessment of β-cell function, with the ability to push forward many aspects of diabetes research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2101660
Issue number30
StatePublished - 28 Jul 2021


FundersFunder number
Glaser Foundation
Israel Science Foundation456/18
Tel Aviv University
Ministry of Science and Technology, Israel3‐17426
Nicholas and Elizabeth Slezak Super Center for Cardiac Research and Biomedical Engineering


    • fluorescent nanoparticles
    • insulin secretion
    • molecular recognition
    • optical nanosensors
    • single-walled carbon nanotubes
    • β-cell function


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