Label-free surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy of biofluids: Fundamental aspects and diagnostic applications

Alois Bonifacio, Silvia Cervo, Valter Sergo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In clinical practice, one objective is to obtain diagnostic information while minimizing the invasiveness of the tests and the pain for the patients. To this end, tests based on the interaction of light with readily available biofluids including blood, urine, or saliva are highly desirable. In this review we examine the state of the art regarding the use of surfaceenhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) to investigate biofluids, focusing on diagnostic applications. First, a critical evaluation of the experimental aspects involved in the collection of SERS spectra is presented; different substrate types are introduced, with a clear distinction between colloidal and noncolloidal metal nanostructures. Then the effect of the excitation wavelength is discussed, along with anomalous bands and artifacts which might affect SERS spectra of biofluids. The central part of the review examines the literature available on the SERS spectra of blood, plasma, serum, urine, saliva, tears, and semen. Finally, diagnostic applications are critically discussed in the context of the published evidence; this section clearly reveals that SERS of biofluids is most promising as a rapid, cheap, and non-invasive tool for mass screening for cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8265-8277
Number of pages13
JournalAnalytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry
Issue number27
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Biofluids
  • Diagnosis
  • Raman
  • SERS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry


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