Stimuli-responsive hydrogel microcapsules for the amplified detection of microRNAs

Wen Hsin Chang, Yi Fang Lee, Yen Wenn Liu, Itamar Willner, Wei Ching Liao*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


A method for the synthesis of DNA-based acrylamide hydrogel microcapsules loaded with quantum dots as a readout signal is introduced. The shell of DNA-acrylamide hydrogel microcapsules is encoded with microRNA-responsive functionalities, being capable of the detection of cancer-associated microRNA. The microRNA-141 (miR-141), a potential biomarker in prostate cancer, was employed as a model target in the microcapsular biosensor. The sensing principle of the microcapsular biosensor is based on the competitive sequence displacement of target miR-141 with the bridging DNA in the microcapsule's shell, leading to the unlocking of DNA-acrylamide hydrogel microcapsules and the release of the readout signal provided by fluorescent quantum dots. The readout signal is intensified as the concentration of miR-141 increases. While miR-141 was directly measured by DNA-acrylamide hydrogel microcapsules, the linear range for the detection of miR-141 is 2.5 to 50 μM and the limit of detection is 1.69 μM. To improve the sensitivity of the microcapsular biosensor for clinical needs, the isothermal strand displacement polymerization/nicking amplification machinery (SDP/NA) process was coupled to the DNA-acrylamide hydrogel microcapsule sensor for the microRNA detection. The linear range for the detection of miR-141 is improved to the range of 102 to 105 pM and the limit of detection is 44.9 pM. Compared to direct microcapsular biosensing, the detection limit for miR-141 by microcapsules coupled with strand-displacement amplification is enhanced by four orders of magnitude. This journal is

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16799-16808
Number of pages10
Issue number39
StatePublished - 21 Oct 2021


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