ZnO-Nanostructured Quartz Crystal Microbalance-based Biosensor for Dynamic and Non-invasive Cellular Monitoring

Invention Summary:

Non-invasive, real-time examination of live cell function is essential in understanding the mechanistic and dynamic progression of biological processes. Existing cell monitoring methods often require removal of cells from the culture environment followed by fixation and labeling, which can be a slow and tedious process.

Researchers at Rutgers University have developed a new technology to non-invasively monitor biological cell dynamics associated with cell growth and cell death. More specifically, they have developed Zinc Oxide (ZnO)-nanostructured biosensors that include Quartz Crystal Microbalance (QCM) acoustic wave biosensors. The developed biomaterials can be used for real-time dynamic measurements of various biophysical properties, including viscoelastic transitions and mass accumulation and proliferation. As the biosensors can be directly placed in a cell culture environment, data can be obtained non-invasively and wirelessly.

The developed sensors display enhanced viscoelastic sensitivity and possess unique advantages for biological cell growth monitoring due to the presence of ZnO nanostructures, such as larger effective surface areas, high sensitivity, biological compatibility through biochemical functionalization, and tunable surface wettability. Each biosensor consists of a standard QCM biosensor with ZnO nanostructures grown directly on its sensing electrode using Metal-Organic Chemical Vapor Deposition through a shadow mask. Testing on bovine aortic endothelial cells (BAECs) was performed using a biosensor in which the ZnO nanostructures were functionalized with fibronectin to facilitate the viability and adhesion of BAECs on the sensing area. The output of the sensor was correlated with results obtained from standard biochemical fluorescence assays and cell counting, and the sensor was then used to obtain a set of data to study various cell mechanisms.

Market Applications:

  • Biosensors
  • Gene and protein identification
  • Drug discovery and development


The developed biosensors can be used to rapidly quantify the dynamic function of biological cells in a non-destructive manner, cost efficiently, and with a high sensitivity, as compared to current commercially available techniques (which are highly invasive).

Intellectual Property & Development Status:

Patent pending. A biosensor was developed.

Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Lisa Lyu
Assistant Director
Rutgers University