Time-Gated Luminescence Acquisition for Biochemical Sensing: miRNA Detection

  • Emilio Garcia-FernandezEmail author
  • Salvatore Pernagallo
  • Juan A. González-Vera
  • María J. Ruedas-Rama
  • Juan J. Díaz-Mochón
  • Angel Orte
Part of the Springer Series on Fluorescence book series (SS FLUOR, volume 18)


Luminescence emission is a multidimensional phenomenon comprising a time-domain layer defined by its excited-state kinetics and corresponding lifetime, which is specific to each luminophore and depends on environmental conditions. This feature allows for the discrimination of luminescence signals from species with a similar spectral profile but different lifetimes by time-gating (TG) the acquisition of luminescence. This approach represents an efficient tool for removing unwanted, usually short-lived, signals from scattered light and fluorescence interferents using luminophores with a long lifetime. Due to the emergence of time-resolved techniques using rapid excitation and acquisition methods (i.e. pulsed lasers and single-photon timing acquisition) and new long-lifetime luminophores (i.e. acridones, lanthanide complexes, nanoparticles, etc.), TG analyses can be easily applied to relevant chemical and biochemical issues. The successful application of TG to important biomedical topics has attracted the attention of the R&D industry due to its potential in the development and patenting of new probes, methods and techniques for drug discovery, immunoassays, biomarker discovery and biomolecular interactions, etc. Here, we review the technological efforts of innovative companies in the application of TG-based techniques.

Among the many currently available biomarkers, circulating microRNAs (miRNAs) have received attention since they are highly specific and sensitive to different pathological stages of numerous diseases and easily accessible from biological fluids. qPCR is a powerful and routine technique used for the detection and quantification of miRNAs, but qPCR may introduce numerous artefacts and low reproducibility during the amplification process, particularly using complex samples. Thus, due to the efficiency of TG in separating short-lived sources of fluorescence common in biological fluids, TG is an ideal approach for the direct detection of miRNAs in liquid biopsies. Recently, great efforts in the use of TG have been achieved. Our contribution is the proposal of a direct detection approach using TG-imaging with single-nucleobase resolution.


FLIM Fluorescence Lanthanides Lifetime Luminescence miRNA Time-gated fluorescence Time-gating Time-resolved fluorescence 



The authors acknowledge funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 690866 (miRNA-DisEASY) and grants CTQ2017–85658-R from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emilio Garcia-Fernandez
    • 1
    Email author
  • Salvatore Pernagallo
    • 2
    • 3
  • Juan A. González-Vera
    • 1
  • María J. Ruedas-Rama
    • 1
  • Juan J. Díaz-Mochón
    • 2
    • 4
    • 5
  • Angel Orte
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Physical Chemistry, Faculty of PharmacyUniversity of GranadaGranadaSpain
  2. 2.DestiNA Genómica S.L.GranadaSpain
  3. 3.DestiNA Genomics Ltd.EdinburghUK
  4. 4.Pfizer-Universidad de Granada-Junta de Andalucía Centre for Genomics and Oncological Research (GENYO), Parque Tecnológico de Ciencias de la Salud (PTS)GranadaSpain
  5. 5.Faculty of PharmacyUniversity of GranadaGranadaSpain

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