Editorial Feature

Nanoribbon Biosensors in Cancer Diagnosis

Using biosensors for a range of applications has been a significant development point for medical researchers, such as in cancer diagnostics. Additionally, incorporating nanotechnology to advance this field has also gained traction over recent years.

Nanoribbon Biosensors in Cancer Diagnosis

Image Credit: Viacheslav Lopatin/Shutterstock.com

Nanoscale particles have unique properties that allow them to behave in a modifiable and controllable manner. Nanoribbon biosensors can be used for detecting biomarkers within the blood and plasma, suitable for precision medicine, and the aim for early and more effective diagnostics. The use of nanoribbon biosensors for this significant application will be explored further in this article.


Biosensors can monitor small molecules and have been a critical development for biomedical research to detect various markers within the blood and diagnose diseases. These analytic devices detect biomolecular interaction between a chemical substance and biological component, such as tissue. Subsequently, this results in the biological response being converted into an electrical signal with the help of a transducer.

The components of biosensors can include a biological recognition component, transducer, and a signal processor. However, a step further into nanotechnology has resulted in the development of nano biosensors, comprising biosensors within the nanoscale, such as nanoparticles, nanotubes, quantum dots, nanoribbons and more.

Nanoribbon (NR) biosensors work where the target molecules form complexes with the nanoribbon surface and its probe molecules. The probe-target interaction can then result in an electrical current that flows through the nanoribbon and causes the electrical signal to be recorded.

Advantages of Nanoribbon Biosensors

An advantage of using this method of detecting biomolecules is that it can allow for a label-free detection approach for identifying diagnostic targets in real-time at low concentrations.

A range of applications can benefit from this, such as detecting markers for disease diagnosis, glucose monitoring for diabetes, as well as for cancer detection and diagnostics.

Additionally, the structural composition of nanoribbons can make them suitable for use as a biosensor; these nanoscale elements represent extended silicon nanostructures which can enable them to be suited as a sensor component for this application.

Their length belongs to the nanoscale range, enabling nanoribbons to have unique properties that allow them to be successful for earlier sensing of biomolecules.

The surface of NR can serve as a virtual gate and can enable target molecules to adsorb, resulting in an electrical current to be modulated and flow through the nanostructure. The use of molecular probes on the surface of NRs can also aid in the specific detection of biomolecules as various complementary components can be utilized for this interaction, such as the use of DNA oligonucleotides for targeting nucleic acids.

A significant benefit of using nanoribbons for biosensor applications is their high surface area to volume ratio, causing high reactivity of these nanoscale structures and high sensitivity to their target molecules, enabling single binding events. This would be beneficial for the earlier detection of cancer cells and markers.

Applications for Cancer Diagnostics

The use of nanoribbon biosensors can especially be seen as important for cancer applications as the acidification of tumors can result in increased glucose levels or the release of lactic acid. Such a response can be utilized as a biomarker.

Earlier detection of cancer biomarkers through the sensitivity and specificity of nanoribbons can aid with furthering personalized medicine and ensuring patients are given appropriate care with guided treatments, which comprise therapies that target specific cancer mutations found.

Nanoribbon biosensors have been gaining traction from researchers as a significant tool for cancer diagnostics, with research exploring different cancer types in various areas of medicine.

Nanoribbon sensor chips are one example and are based on ‘silicon-on-insulator’ structures. Scientists developed and used these chips to detect circular RNA, a molecular marker that can be used for detecting gliomas, a type of brain tumor.

Another cancer application that nanoribbon biosensors are used for includes the detection of microRNAs or miRNAs (specifically, miRNA-17-3p), which is associated with colorectal cancer. The nanoribbon biosensors used in this research consisted of o-DNA probe that was complementary to this particular DNA sequence to determine the detection capacity of NR biosensors for colorectal cancer diagnostics.

Colorectal cancer can be caused by various factors that include both genetic and environmental influences; this is one of the most common type of cancers and is the second most common cancer associated with high mortality rates within the United States.

Early diagnoses for cancers are significant as they can enable patients to start treatments earlier with better prognoses provided. This is especially important for colorectal cancer, which has been shown to decrease incidence from the year 2000 due to comprehensive detection at an earlier stage, enabling patients to undergo effective therapeutics.

Challenges and Future Outlook

This advanced research using nanoribbon biosensors has shown promise for the effective detection of biomarkers for earlier diagnostics; however, this would still require further research. Additionally, research into nanoribbon biosensors is still at an early stage and requires more investment before these devices can overcome conventional diagnostic methods used.

However, with personalized or precision medicine being a priority for both governmental and healthcare policies, which aim to prioritize patients and their variant transcripts, the transition of this technology may be seamless within a clinical setting.
Reducing mortality rates for cancer patients could be achieved, as well as a decrease in financial burdens within healthcare systems and economies.

The use of novel technology such as nanoribbon biosensors is versatile and modifiable for various cancers, with applications in diseases and disorders, from viruses to glucose monitoring for diabetes, which illustrates its potential for advancing medicine.

World Cancer Day: How Nanotechnology Became a Cancer Research Staple

References and Further Reading

 Ivanov, Y., et al (2021) Nanoribbon Biosensor in the Detection of miRNAs Associated with Colorectal Cancer. Micromachines, 12(12), p.1581. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-666X/12/12/1581

 Mousa, S., (2010) Biosensors: the new wave in cancer diagnosis. Nanotechnology, Science and Applications, p.1. https://www.dovepress.com/biosensors-the-new-wave-in-cancer-diagnosis-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-NSA

Dhinakaran, V., Vigneswari, K., Lavanya, M. and Varsha Shree, M., (2020) Point-of-care applications with graphene in human life. Analytical Applications of Graphene for Comprehensive Analytical Chemistry, pp.235-262. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0166526X20300623

Ivanov, Y., et al (2021) Nanoribbon-Based Electronic Detection of a Glioma-Associated Circular miRNA. Biosensors, 11(7), p.237. https://www.mdpi.com/2079-6374/11/7/237

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Marzia Khan

Written by

Marzia Khan

Marzia Khan is a lover of scientific research and innovation. She immerses herself in literature and novel therapeutics which she does through her position on the Royal Free Ethical Review Board. Marzia has a MSc in Nanotechnology and Regenerative Medicine as well as a BSc in Biomedical Sciences. She is currently working in the NHS and is engaging in a scientific innovation program.


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