Research ArticleDiagnostics

Detection of pathological biomarkers in human clinical samples via amplifying genetic switches and logic gates

Science Translational Medicine  27 May 2015:
Vol. 7, Issue 289, pp. 289ra83
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaa3601

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Abstract

Whole-cell biosensors have several advantages for the detection of biological substances and have proven to be useful analytical tools. However, several hurdles have limited whole-cell biosensor application in the clinic, primarily their unreliable operation in complex media and low signal-to-noise ratio. We report that bacterial biosensors with genetically encoded digital amplifying genetic switches can detect clinically relevant biomarkers in human urine and serum. These bactosensors perform signal digitization and amplification, multiplexed signal processing with the use of Boolean logic gates, and data storage. In addition, we provide a framework with which to quantify whole-cell biosensor robustness in clinical samples together with a method for easily reprogramming the sensor module for distinct medical detection agendas. Last, we demonstrate that bactosensors can be used to detect pathological glycosuria in urine from diabetic patients. These next-generation whole-cell biosensors with improved computing and amplification capacity could meet clinical requirements and should enable new approaches for medical diagnosis.

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