Hydrogel-based hybridization chain reaction (HCR) for detection of urinary exosomal miRNAs as a diagnostic tool of prostate cancer

Biosens Bioelectron. 2021 Nov 15;192:113504. doi: 10.1016/j.bios.2021.113504. Epub 2021 Jul 16.


Although urinary exosomal microRNAs (miRNAs) have recently emerged as potential biomarkers, clinical applications are still limited due to their low concentration in small volumes of clinical samples. Therefore, the development of a non-invasive, specific diagnostic tool, along with profiling exosomal miRNA markers from urine, remains a significant challenge. Here, we present hydrogel-based hybridization chain reaction (HCR) for multiplex signal amplification to detect urinary exosomal miRNAs from human clinical samples. We succeeded in identifying small amounts (~amol) of exosomal miRNAs from 600 μL of urine with up to ~35-fold amplification and enhanced detection limits by over an order of magnitude for two miRNA biomarker candidates, hsa-miR-6090 and hsa-miR-3665. Furthermore, we proposed ratiometric analysis without requiring normalization to a reference miRNA and validated the clinical diagnostic potential toward differentiating prostate cancer patients from healthy controls. Our hydrogel-based HCR could serve as a new diagnostic platform for a non-invasive liquid biopsy before burdensome tissue biopsy of various diseases, including prostate cancer screening, complementing the PSA test.

Keywords: Diagnostics; Hydrogel microparticle; Prostate cancer; Urinary exosome; miRNA.

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Biosensing Techniques*
  • Early Detection of Cancer
  • Exosomes* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Hydrogels
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs* / genetics
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / genetics


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Hydrogels
  • MicroRNAs
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen