The goal of this very recent project is to develop a sensor platform that is able to detect and to characterize monocytes (subgroup of white blood cells) in a specific manner. A reliable and fast detection of certain phenotypes of monocytes is considered as very important in atherosclerotic disease handling. Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer of the aging population. In over 50% of the cases atherosclerotic plaque rupture, leading to acute myocardial infarction or severe coronary disease, is the first clinical symptom of atherosclerosis. Active inflammation, represented by extensive macrophage accumulation in the plaque during plaque progression, is a major criterion to define plaques that are prone to rupture. A main topic in current studies on biomarkers are phenotypical changes in circulating monocytes that represent atherosclerotic plaque progression. The development of a sensor that is able to detect these monocyte phenotypes will lead to an improved prognosis for patients at risk for a myocardial infarct.
The sensor platform will be made by structural surface imprinting. A pre-polymer layer is spincoated on a sensor transducer platform, which can e.g. be a quartz-crystal microbalance QCM. Before polymerisation is completed, monocytes are stamped into the semi-soft polymer layer. During the final hardening step, the monocytes interact with the forming polymer by hydrogen bonds. Finally, the monocytes are extracted from the polymer, leaving behind imprints in the polymer surface. These imprints will act as specific binding sites for the rebinding of the imprinted monocyte phenotypes. This principle has already been successfully demonstrated by other research groups for diverse target entities, including erythrocytes, pollen grains, yeast cells, and viruses. At present, we optimize the polymerization steps using silica beads as dummy material for the actual moncytes.