For surface-based diagnostic devices to achieve reliable biomarker detection in complex media such as blood, preventing nonspecific protein adsorption and incorporating high loading of biorecognition elements are paramount. In this work, a novel method to produce nonfouling zwitterionic hydrogel coatings was developed to achieve these goals. Poly(carboxybetaine acrylamide) (pCBAA) hydrogel thin films (CBHTFs) prepared with a carboxybetaine diacrylamide crosslinker (CBAAX) were coated on gold and silicon dioxide surfaces via a simple spin coating process. The thickness of CBHTFs could be precisely controlled between 15 and 150 nm by varying the crosslinker concentration, and the films demonstrated excellent long-term stability. Protein adsorption from undiluted human blood serum onto the CBHTFs was measured with surface plasmon resonance (SPR). Hydrogel thin films greater than 20 nm exhibited ultra-low fouling (<5 ng/cm2). In addition, the CBHTFs were capable of high antibody functionalization for specific biomarker detection without compromising their nonfouling performance. This strategy provides a facile method to modify SPR biosensor chips with an advanced nonfouling material, and can be potentially expanded to a variety of implantable medical devices and diagnostic biosensors. Statement of Significance In this work, we developed an approach to realize ultra-low fouling and high ligand loading with a highly-crosslinked, purely zwitterionic, carboxybetaine thin film hydrogel (CBHTF) coating platform. The CBHTF on a hydrophilic surface demonstrated long-term stability. By varying the crosslinker content in the spin-coated hydrogel solution, the thickness of CBHTFs could be precisely controlled. Optimized CBHTFs exhibited ultra-low nonspecific protein adsorption below 5 ng/cm2 measured by a surface plasmon resonance (SPR) sensor, and their 3D architecture allowed antibody loading to reach 693 ng/cm2. This strategy provides a facile method to modify SPR biosensor chips with an advanced nonfouling material, and can be potentially expanded to a variety of implantable medical devices and diagnostic biosensors.
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