Development of a miRNA surface-enhanced Raman scattering assay using benchtop and handheld Raman systems.
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DNA-functionalized nanoparticles, when paired with surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), can rapidly detect microRNA. However, widespread use of this approach is hindered by drawbacks associated with large and expensive benchtop Raman microscopes. MicroRNA-17 (miRNA-17) has emerged as a potential epigenetic indicator of preeclampsia, a condition that occurs during pregnancy. Biomarker detection using an SERS point-of-care device could enable prompt diagnosis and prevention as early as the first trimester. Recently, strides have been made in developing portable Raman systems for field applications. An SERS assay for miRNA-17 was assessed and translated from traditional benchtop Raman microscopes to a handheld system. Three different photoactive molecules were compared as potential Raman reporter molecules: a chromophore, malachite green isothiocyanate (MGITC), a fluorophore, tetramethylrhodamine isothiocyanate, and a polarizable small molecule 5,5-dithio-bis-(2-nitrobenzoic acid) (DTNB). For the benchtop Raman microscope, the DTNB-labeled assay yielded the greatest sensitivity under 532-nm laser excitation, but the MGITC-labeled assay prevailed at 785nm. Conversely, DTNB was preferable for the miniaturized 785-nm Raman system. This comparison showed significant SERS enhancement variation in response to 1-nM miRNA-17, implying that the sensitivity of the assay may be more heavily dependent on the excitation wavelength, instrumentation, and Raman reporter chosen than on the plasmonic coupling from DNA/miRNA-mediated nanoparticle assemblies.