Document Type



Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor's Name

Chenzhong Li

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Helen Tempest

Third Advisor's Name

Wei-Chiang Lin

Fourth Advisor's Name

Anthony McGoron


microelectrode, biomarkers, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, electrochemistry

Date of Defense



A report from the National Institutes of Health defines a disease biomarker as a "characteristic that is objectively measured and evaluated as an indicator of normal biologic processes, pathogenic processes, or pharmacologic responses to a therapeutic intervention." Early diagnosis is a crucial factor for incurable disease such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). During the last decade researchers have discovered that biochemical changes caused by a disease can be detected considerably earlier as compared to physical manifestations/symptoms. In this dissertation electrochemical detection was utilized as the detection strategy as it offers high sensitivity/specificity, ease of operation, and capability of miniaturization and multiplexed detection. Electrochemical detection of biological analytes is an established field, and has matured at a rapid pace during the last 50 years and adapted itself to advances in micro/nanofabrication procedures. Carbon fiber microelectrodes were utilized as the platform sensor due to their high signal to noise ratio, ease and low-cost of fabrication, biocompatibility, and active carbon surface which allows conjugation with bio-recognition moieties.

This dissertation specifically focuses on the detection of 3 extensively validated biomarkers for cancer and AD. Firstly, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) a cancer biomarker was detected using a one-step, reagentless immunosensing strategy. The immunosensing strategy allowed a rapid and sensitive means of VEGF detection with a detection limit of about 38 pg/mL with a linear dynamic range of 0–100 pg/mL.

Direct detection of AD-related biomarker amyloid beta (Aβ) was achieved by exploiting its inherent electroactivity. The quantification of the ratio of Aβ1-40/42 (or Aβ ratio) has been established as a reliable test to diagnose AD through human clinical trials. Triple barrel carbon fiber microelectrodes were used to simultaneously detect Aβ1-40 and Aβ1-42 in cerebrospinal fluid from rats within a detection range of 100nM to 1.2μM and 400nM to 1μM respectively.

In addition, the release of DNA damage/repair biomarker 8-hydroxydeoxyguanine (8-OHdG) under the influence of reactive oxidative stress from single lung endothelial cell was monitored using an activated carbon fiber microelectrode. The sensor was used to test the influence of nicotine, which is one of the most biologically active chemicals present in cigarette smoke and smokeless tobacco.





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