Highly accurate and label-free discrimination of single cancer cell using a plasmonic oxide-based nanoprobe

Biosens Bioelectron. 2022 Feb 15;198:113814. doi: 10.1016/j.bios.2021.113814. Epub 2021 Nov 19.


The detection of cancer cells at the single-cell level enables many novel functionalities such as next-generation cancer prognosis and accurate cellular analysis. While surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) has been widely considered as an effective tool in a low-cost and label-free manner, however, it is challenging to discriminate single cancer cells with an accuracy above 90% mainly due to the poor biocompatibility of the noble-metal-based SERS agents. Here, we report a dual-functional nanoprobe based on dopant-driven plasmonic oxides, demonstrating a maximum accuracy above 90% in distinguishing single THP-1 cell from peripheral blood mononuclear cell (PBMC) and human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293 from human macrophage cell line U937 based on their SERS patterns. Furthermore, this nanoprobe can be triggered by the bio-redox response from individual cells towards stimuli, empowering another complementary colorimetric cell detection, approximately achieving the unity discrimination accuracy at a single-cell level. Our strategy could potentially enable the future accurate and low-cost detection of cancer cells from mixed cell samples.

Keywords: Colorimetric cell detection; Plasmon oxide; Single cell detection; Surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy.

MeSH terms

  • Biosensing Techniques*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear
  • Metal Nanoparticles*
  • Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Oxides
  • Spectrum Analysis, Raman


  • Oxides