Low-cost Inkjet-Printed nanostructured biosensor based on CRISPR/Cas12a system for pathogen detection

Angela Gilda Carota, Andrea Bonini, Massimo Urban, Noemi Poma, Federico Maria Vivaldi, Arianna Tavanti, Marianna Rossetti, Giulio Rosati, Arben Merkoçi, Fabio Di Francesco. Biosensors and Bioelectronics

The escalating global incidence of infectious diseases caused by pathogenic bacteria, especially in developing countries, emphasises the urgent need for rapid and portable pathogen detection devices. This study introduces a sensitive and specific electrochemical biosensing platform utilising cost-effective electrodes fabricated by inkjet-printing gold and silver nanoparticles on a plastic substrate. The biosensor exploits the CRISPR/Cas12a system for detecting a specific DNA sequence selected from the genome of the target pathogen. Upon detection, the trans-activity of Cas12a/gRNA is triggered, leading to the cleavage of rationally designed single-strand DNA reporters (linear and hairpin) labelled with methylene blue (ssDNA-MB) and bound to the electrode surface. In principle, this sensing mechanism can be adapted to any bacterium by choosing a proper guide RNA to target a specific sequence of its DNA. The biosensor’s performance was assessed for two representative pathogens (a Gram-negative, Escherichia coli, and a Gram-positive, Staphylococcus aureus), and results obtained with inkjet-printed gold electrodes were compared with those obtained by commercial screen-printed gold electrodes. Our results show that the use of inkjet-printed nanostructured gold electrodes, which provide a large surface area, in combination with the use of hairpin reporters containing a poly-T loop can increase the sensitivity of the assay corresponding to a signal variation of 86%. DNA targets amplified from various clinically isolated bacteria, have been tested and demonstrate the potential of the proposed platform for point-of-need applications. [Link to the article]