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Development of Portable Surface-Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy Nanosensors for Ultrasensitive Characterization of Drugs in Human Biofluids

NCJ Number
Date Published
60 pages

This study details the development of new, ultrasensitive, and flexible surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS)-based nanosensors for ultrasensitive characterization of drugs in human biofluids.


In this study, researchers fabricated entirely new, ultrasensitive, and flexible surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS)-based nanosensors for toxicological drug analysis directly from biological fluids. This tool will aid the forensic, healthcare, and law enforcement communities in the battle against the drug overdose epidemic in the United States. The simple, fast and efficient assay of drugs and the identification of exposed individuals will greatly benefit law enforcement agencies and various toxicologists. Ultrasensitive, reliable, and rapid analyses will assist immediate forensic toxicology applications by law enforcement and promote aggressive efforts to eradicate drugs from communities. The authors believe that the excellent sensitivity and specificity of the plasmonic patch in SERS-based drug detection should be highly advantageous to clinical toxicology because low concentration of undecomposed drugs can be identified. The authors expect that the developed SERS substrate can also be used in therapeutic drug monitoring and post-mortem toxicology that together will dramatically simplify the “war against drugs.” The development of ultrasensitive and highly specific SERS nanosensors has the potential to be an advanced analytical tool for forensic toxicology that creates a simple, cost effective and easily accessible means of analyzing human biofluids. Enhanced drug detection sensitivity will decrease the likelihood of false negatives, which may be a barrier to criminal charging. Postmortem toxicology is one of the potential avenues where technology can be successfully implemented to avoid the very high risk of matrix effects. The ultrasensitive nature of these SERS nanosensors should allow drug detection using a portable Raman instrument, thus will increase the scope of drug screening for forensic toxicologists, healthcare professionals, and law enforcement agencies for rapidly generating presumptive results by screening illegal drug consumption and overdose. 

Date Published: January 1, 2024