Biosensors are nowadays ubiquitous in biomedical diagnosis as well as a wide range of other areas such as point-of-care monitoring of treatment and disease progression, environmental monitoring, food control, drug discovery, forensics and biomedical research. A wide range of techniques can be used for the development of biosensors. Their coupling with high-affinity biomolecules allows the sensitive and selective detection of a range of analytes. We give a general introduction to biosensors and biosensing technologies, including a brief historical overview, introducing key developments in the field and illustrating the breadth of biomolecular sensing strategies and the expansion of nanotechnological approaches that are now available.
There are an increasing number of applications that have been developed for oligonucleotide-based biosensing systems in genetics and biomedicine. Oligonucleotide-based biosensors are those where the probe to capture the analyte is a strand of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), ribonucleic acid (RNA) or a synthetic analogue of naturally occurring nucleic acids. This review will shed light on various types of nucleic acids such as DNA and RNA (particularly microRNAs), their role and their application in biosensing. It will also cover DNA/RNA aptamers, which can be used as bioreceptors for a wide range of targets such as proteins, small molecules, bacteria and even cells. It will also highlight how the invention of synthetic oligonucleotides such as peptide nucleic acid (PNA) or locked nucleic acid (LNA) has pushed the limits of molecular biology and biosensor development to new perspectives. These technologies are very promising albeit still in need of development in order to bridge the gap between the laboratory-based status and the reality of biomedical applications.
Electrochemical techniques have great promise for low-cost miniaturised easy-to-use portable devices for a wide range of applications–in particular, medical diagnosis and environmental monitoring. Different techniques can be used for biosensing, with amperometric devices taking the central role due to their widespread application in glucose monitoring. In fact, glucose biosensing takes an approximately 70% share of the biosensor market due to the need for diabetic patients to monitor their sugar levels several times a day, making it an appealing commercial market. In this review, we present the basic principles of electrochemical biosensor devices. A description of the different generations of glucose sensors is used to describe in some detail the operation of amperometric sensors and how the introduction of mediators can enhance the performance of the sensors. Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy is a technique being increasingly used in devices due to its ability to detect variations in resistance and capacitance upon binding events. Novel advances in electrochemical sensors, due to the use of nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and graphene, are presented as well as future directions that the field is taking.