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Designing SERS nanotags for profiling overexpressed surface markers on single cancer cells: a review

  • Verdin, Alexandre
  • Malherbe, Cédric
  • Eppe, Gauthier
Publication Date
May 09, 2024
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peer reviewed / This review focuses on the chemical design and the use of Surface-Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS)-active nanotags for measuring surface markers that can be overexpressed at the surface of single cancer cells. Indeed, providing analytical tools with true single-cell measurements capabilities is capital, especially since cancer research is increasingly leaning toward single-cell analysis, either to guide treatment decisions or to understand complex tumor behaviour including the single-cell heterogeneity and the appearance of treatment resistance. Over the past two decades, SERS nanotags have triggered significant interest in the scientific community owing their advantages over fluorescent tags, mainly because SERS nanotags resist photobleaching and exhibit sharper signal bands, which reduces possible spectral overlap and enables the discrimination between the SERS signals and the autofluorescence background from the sample itself. The extensive efforts invested in harnessing SERS nanotags for biomedical purposes, particularly in cancer research, highlight their potential as the next generation of optical labels for single-cell studies. The review unfolds in two main parts. The first part focuses on the structure of SERS nanotags, detailing their chemical composition and the role of each building block of the tags. The second part explores applications in measuring overexpressed surface markers on single-cells. The latter encompasses studies using single nanotags, multiplexed measurements, quantitative information extraction, monitoring treatment responses, and integrating phenotype measurements with SERS nanotags on single cells isolated from complex biological matrices. This comprehensive review anticipates SERS nanotags to persist as a pivotal technology in advancing single-cell analytical methods, particularly in the context of cancer research and personalized medicine

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