A mass-based aptasensor for real-time, continuous quantification of TNF-alpha with quartz crystal microbalance

Lena Fasching*, Pancheng Zhu, Atticus Mulder, Gabriel Spiller Beltrao, Yannick Neeleman, Alina Rwei

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

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Accurate and real-time monitoring of biomarker proteins, such as Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) alpha, plays a vital role in early disease diagnosis, effective treatment design, and personalized health management strategies. However, existing detection methods, including enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), radioimmune assays (RIA), and polymerase chain reaction (PCR), have significant drawbacks regarding sensitivity, cost, time, and labor efficiency, emphasizing the urgent need for alternative biosensing techniques. Here, we present a mass-based biosensing approach utilizing aptamers for the real-time detection of proteins, using TNF-alpha as the model analyte. The recognition process is based on the selective binding of the target molecule to the aptamer's unique three-dimensional structure. By utilizing a quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) as the transducing element, real-time detection of target binding is translated into a linear decrease in resonant frequency due to the change in mass upon target binding. The developed aptasensor enabled real-time quantification of TNF-alpha with high reliability, sensitivity, and specificity. The sensitivity of the sensor ranged from 14.5 nM to 115.6 nM, in which a linear correlation between target concentration and frequency decrease rate was found. Successful sensor regeneration demonstrated potential for continuous measurements in solution. By directly monitoring the change in mass during sensor fabrication and upon analyte binding, this platform provides key mechanistic insights in the surface functionalization process during sensor fabrication and analyte binding kinetics during sensor operation. In the future, incorporation of alternative target receptors, by simply changing the aptamer sequence, can broaden the analyte spectrum, making this platform highly versatile. We hereby demonstrate a technology that can be utilized for various biosensing platforms upon minimal modifications, including electrochemical and optical systems, for a wide range of macromolecular analytes.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2023 IEEE BioSensors Conference, BioSensors 2023 - Proceedings
Number of pages4
ISBN (Electronic)979-8-3503-4604-6
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Event1st Annual IEEE BioSensors Conference, BioSensors 2023 - London, United Kingdom
Duration: 30 Jul 20231 Aug 2023


Conference1st Annual IEEE BioSensors Conference, BioSensors 2023
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository 'You share, we take care!' - Taverne project https://www.openaccess.nl/en/you-share-we-take-care
Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • aptamer-based biosensor
  • continuous
  • mass-sensitive aptasensor
  • real-time cytokine biomarker monitoring


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