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A simple, fast, label-free colorimetric method for detection of telomerase activity in urine by using hemin-graphene conjugates

Telomerase, a widely accepted cancer biomarker for early cancer diagnostics, is considered as an important therapeutic target. To now, it is still a challenging subject to develop a simple and sensitive strategy for telomerase activity detection. Herein, we reported a simple colorimetric strategy for label-free quantification of human telomerase activity in urine by using hemin-graphene nanomaterial (H-GNs). H-GNs possessed tailored dispersibility in the high salt concentration and highly active biomimetic oxidation catalyst property. In this strategy, H-GNs were adjusted to coagulate to appropriate degree by carefully selecting the contained NaCl amount in the presence of original TS primer. The supernatant of the solution contained few H-GNs and showed light blue color. Under the action of telomerase, TS primer was elongated with repeating sequences of (TTAGGG)n. These negatively charged DNA enhanced individual H-GNs electrostatic repulsion and resisted salt-induced H-GNs coagulation. As a result, the supernate of the corresponding solution containing more dispersed H-GNs and showed dark blue color after chromogenic reaction. Thus, telomerase activity could be quasi-quantified by naked eye and precise quantified by UV spectrometer. The proposed method has the linear range from 100 to 2300 HeLa cells/mL and the detection limit was 60 cells/mL. It has been successfully applied to detect telomerase activity in real urine samples. Obtained results were in good agreement with the clinical diagnosis. Therefore, this colorimetric approach affords simplicity, sensitivity and reliability in telomerase activity detection.

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