Development of a Bioactive Paper Sensor for Detection of Neurotoxins Using Piezoelectric Inkjet Printing of Sol−Gel-Derived Bioinks

There is an increasing interest in new strategies to rapidly detect analytes of clinical and environmental interest without the need for sophisticated instrumentation. As an example, the detection of acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors such as neurotoxins and organophosphates has implications for neuroscience, drug assessment, pharmaceutical development, and environmental monitoring. Functionalization of surfaces with multiple reagents, including enzymes and chromogenic reagents, is a critical component for the effective development of “dipstick” or lateral flow biosensors. Herein, we describe a novel paper-based solid-phase biosensor that utilizes piezoelectric inkjet printing of biocompatible, enzyme-doped, sol−gel-based inks to create colorimetric sensor strips. For this purpose, polyvinylamine (PVAm, which captures anionic agents) was first printed and then AChE was overprinted by sandwiching the enzyme within two layers of biocompatible sol−gel-derived silica on paper. AChE inhibitors, including paraoxon and aflatoxin B1, were detected successfully using this sensor by measuring the residual activity of AChE on paper, using Ellman’s colorimetric assay, with capture of the 5-thio-2-nitrobenzoate (TNB<sup>−</sup>) product on the PVAm layer. The assay provided good detection limits (paraoxon, ∼100 nM; aflatoxin B1,∼30 nM) and rapid response times (<5 min). Detection could be achieved either by eye or using a digital camera and image analysis software, avoiding the need for expensive and sophisticated instrumentation. We demonstrate that the bioactive paper strip can be used either as a dipstick or a lateral flow-based biosensor. The use of sol−gel-based entrapment produced a sensor that retained enzyme activity and gave reproducible results after storage at 4 °C for at least 60 days, making the system suitable for storage and use in the field.