Rapid optofluidic detection of biomarkers for traumatic brain injury via surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

External organisations

  • School of Chemical Engineering
  • School of Computer Science, College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK.
  • Department of Physics and Engineering Physics
  • Cavendish Laboratory
  • Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute
  • NIHR Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology Research Centre
  • Department of Neuroscience, Rehabilitation, Ophthalmology, Genetics, Maternal and Child Health, University of Genova, Italy.
  • Institute for Inflammation and Ageing
  • National Institute for Health Research
  • School of Mathematics
  • Univ Birmingham Edgbaston
  • Keele University
  • Trauma Management Healthcare Technology Co-operative
  • Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals (SWBH) and University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) NHS Trust, Birmingham, United Kingdom.
  • Bolton NHS foundation Trust
  • Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, Queen Elizabeth Medical Centre


Current technologies for the point-of-care diagnosis of traumatic brain injury (TBI) lack sensitivity, require specialist handling or involve complicated and costly procedures. Here, we report the development and testing of an optofluidic device for the rapid and label-free detection, via surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS), of picomolar concentrations of biomarkers for TBI in biofluids. The SERS-active substrate of the device consists of electrohydrodynamically fabricated submicrometre pillars covered with a plasmon-active nanometric gold layer, integrated in an optofluidic chip. We show that the device can detect N-acetylasparate in finger-prick blood samples from patients with TBI, and that the biomarker is released immediately from the central nervous system after TBI. The simplicity, sensitivity and robustness of SERS-integrated optofluidic technology might eventually help the triaging of TBI patients and assist clinical decision making at point-of-care settings.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)610-623
Number of pages14
JournalNature Biomedical Engineering
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020