Label-free nanosensors can detect disease markers to provide point-of-care diagnosis that is low-cost, rapid, specific and sensitive. However, detecting these biomarkers in physiological fluid samples is difficult because of problems such as biofouling and non-specific binding, and the resulting need to use purified buffers greatly reduces the clinical relevance of these sensors. Here, we overcome this limitation by using distinct components within the sensor to perform purification and detection. A microfluidic purification chip simultaneously captures multiple biomarkers from blood samples and releases them, after washing, into purified buffer for sensing by a silicon nanoribbon detector. This two-stage approach isolates the detector from the complex environment of whole blood, and reduces its minimum required sensitivity by effectively pre-concentrating the biomarkers. We show specific and quantitative detection of two model cancer antigens from a 10 microl sample of whole blood in less than 20 min. This study marks the first use of label-free nanosensors with physiological solutions, positioning this technology for rapid translation to clinical settings.
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