Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor's Name

Anthony J. McGoron

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Wei-Chiang Lin

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Chenzhong li

Third Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Helen Tempest

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Walter M. Goldberg

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

committee member


surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, Immunosensor, chemical toxins, cell-based biosensor, yeast, protein biomarkers, silver nanoparticles, SLISA, ELISA

Date of Defense



The contamination of the environment, accidental or intentional, in particular with chemical toxins such as industrial chemicals and chemical warfare agents has increased public fear. There is a critical requirement for the continuous detection of toxins present at very low levels in the environment. Indeed, some ultra-sensitive analytical techniques already exist, for example chromatography and mass spectroscopy, which are approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency for the detection of toxins. However, these techniques are limited to the detection of known toxins. Cellular expression of genomic and proteomic biomarkers in response to toxins allows monitoring of known as well as unknown toxins using Polymerase Chain Reaction and Enzyme Linked Immunosensor Assays. However, these molecular assays allow only the endpoint (extracellular) detection and use labels such as fluorometric, colorimetric and radioactive, which increase chances of uncertainty in detection. Additionally, they are time, labor and cost intensive. These technical limitations are unfavorable towards the development of a biosensor technology for continuous detection of toxins. Federal agencies including the Departments of Homeland Security, Agriculture, Defense and others have urged the development of a detect-to-protect class of advanced biosensors, which enable environmental surveillance of toxins in resource-limited settings.

In this study a Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) immunosensor, aka a SERS-linked immunosensor assay (SLISA), has been developed. Colloidal silver nanoparticles (Ag NPs) were used to design a flexible SERS immunosensor. The SLISA proof-of-concept biosensor was validated by the measurement of a dose dependent expression of RAD54 and HSP70 proteins in response to H2O2 and UV. A prototype microchip, best suited for SERS acquisition, was fabricated using an on-chip SLISA to detect RAD54 expression in response to H2O2. A dose-response relationship between H2O2 and RAD54 is established and correlated with EPA databases, which are established for human health risk assessment in the events of chemical exposure. SLISA outperformed ELISA by allowing RISE (rapid, inexpensive, simple and effective) detection of proteins within 2 hours and 3 steps. It did not require any label and provided qualitative information on antigen-antibody binding. SLISA can easily be translated to a portable assay using a handheld Raman spectrometer and it can be used in resource-limited settings. Additionally, this is the first report to deliver Ag NPs using TATHA2, a fusogenic peptide with cell permeability and endosomal rupture release properties, for rapid and high levels of Ag NPs uptake into yeast without significant toxicity, prerequisites for the development of the first intracellular SERS immunosensor.





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