Abstract: Developing a simple, fast, and label-free method for discrimination between live cancer cells and normal cells in biological samples still remains a challenge. Here, a system is described that fulfills these features to analyze individual living cells. The system consists of a gold nanohole array biosensor plus a microscope optical design to isolate the spectral response of a single cell. It is demonstrated that differences in the spectral behavior between tumor (colorectal cancer cell lines and primary cells from colorectal cancer tissue) and non-tumor cells (peripheral blood mononuclear cells, skin fibroblasts and colon epithelial cells) are influenced by the actin cortex, which lies within the short penetration depth of the surface plasmon electromagnetic field. The efficacy of this system was assessed by the analysis of about one thousand single cells showing the highest discrimination capacity between normal colon epithelial cells and colorectal cancer cells from surgical specimens, with values of sensitivity and specificity ranging 80-100% and 87-100%, respectively. It is also demonstrated that cell discrimination capacity of the system is highly reduced by disrupting the formation of actin cortex. This plasmonic system may find wide applications in biomedicine and to study key cellular processes that involve the actin cortex, including proliferation, differentiation, and migration.
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