Microscopic photonic biosensor measures oxygen in organ-on-chips

Since oxygen is an essential chemical throughout our body, its presence must therefore be properly mimicked in any realistic organ-on-chip devices. Some cells consume oxygen readily while others not so much, but because this happens on such a small scale, measurement of oxygen consumption on the cellular level has been very difficult. Engineers at North Carolina State and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill have now developed a tiny sensor for measuring oxygen concentration within micro devices that attempt to replicate organoids and other systems in our bodies.

The photonic biosensor, reported on in journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics, relies on a hosphorescent gel that glows in infrared when excited by an incoming light. The nifty thing is that how fast the material’s glow activates after being illuminated by light depends on the amount of oxygen in its environment. Simply measuring the response time gives a pretty accurate indication of the oxygen near the sensor.

Sensor Yole
One of our next steps is to incorporate the biosensor into a system that automatically makes adjustments to maintain the desired oxygen concentration in the organ-on-a-chip,” said Michael Daniele, one of the researchers on the project. “We’re also hoping to work with other tissue engineering researchers and industry. We think our biosensor could be a valuable instrument for helping to advance the development of organs-on-a-chip as viable research tools.