A unique combined pore approach to the sensitive detection of human insulin is developed. Through a systematic study to understand the impact of pore size and surface chemistry of nanoporous materials on their enrichment and purification performance, the advantages of selected porous materials are integrated to enhance detection sensitivity in a unified two-step process. In the first purification step, a rationally designed large pore material (ca. 100 nm in diameter) is chosen to repel the interferences from nontarget molecules. In the second enrichment step, a hydrophobically modified mesoporous material with a pore size of 5 nm is selected to enrich insulin molecules. A low detection limit of 0.05 ng mL−1 in artificial urine is achieved by this advanced approach, similar to most antibody-based analysis protocols. This designer approach is efficient and low cost, and thus has great potential in the sensitive detection of biomolecules in complex biological systems.
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