Nanoparticles that sense thrombin activity as synthetic urinary biomarkers of thrombosis

ACS Nano. 2013 Oct 22;7(10):9001-9. doi: 10.1021/nn403550c. Epub 2013 Sep 12.


Thrombin is a serine protease and regulator of hemostasis that plays a critical role in the formation of obstructive blood clots, or thrombosis, that is a life-threatening condition associated with numerous diseases such as atherosclerosis and stroke. To detect thrombi in living animals, we design and conjugate thrombin-sensitive peptide substrates to the surface of nanoparticles. Following intravenous infusion, these "synthetic biomarkers" survey the host vasculature for coagulation and, in response to substrate cleavage by thrombin, release ligand-encoded reporters into the host urine. To detect the urinary reporters, we develop a companion 96-well immunoassay that utilizes antibodies to bind specifically to the ligands, thus capturing the reporters for quantification. Using a thromboplastin-induced mouse model of pulmonary embolism, we show that urinary biomarker levels differentiate between healthy and thrombotic states and correlate closely with the aggregate burden of clots formed in the lungs. Our results demonstrate that synthetic biomarkers can be engineered to sense vascular diseases remotely from the urine and may allow applications in point-of-care diagnostics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / urine*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Ligands
  • Mice
  • Nanoparticles*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / chemically induced
  • Pulmonary Embolism / urine
  • Thromboplastin / adverse effects
  • Thrombosis / urine*


  • Biomarkers
  • Ligands
  • Thromboplastin