Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) is a cytokine with significance in early diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases, obesity and insulin resistance. We demonstrate the proof of concept for a rapid and sensitive detection of TNF-α using a magnetic bead pull-down assay in combination with surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS). The use of purified and highly SERS-active small clusters of gold nanoparticles (AuNP) provides the high sensitivity of the assay with a limit of detection of ca. 1 pg/mL. Continuous density gradient centrifugation was employed for separating the very bright silica-encapsulated AuNP dimers and trimers from the significantly weaker AuNP monomers. Negative control experiments with other cytokines (IL-6, IL-8) and bovine serum albumin (BSA) confirm the high specificity of the assay, but indicate also space for future improvements by further reducing non-specific binding between proteins and the SERS nanotags. The multiplexing potential of this SERS-based detection scheme is exemplarily demonstrated by using a set of three spectrally distinct and highly SERS-active AuNP clusters with unique spectral barcodes.
- Silica encapsulation
- Gold nanoparticles
- Surface-enhanced Raman scattering