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Multi-disciplinary project grant for electrochemical DNA biosensing

19 December 2011

A research team involving Drs Niek Buurma and Simon Pope, together with collaborators at the University of Bath (Dr Estrela of the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering and Prof Frost of the Department of Chemistry), has been awarded research funding under the Bio-E Initiative for a multi-disciplinary project aiming at enhancing electrochemical DNA biosensing with active sensitisers based on organic and inorganic molecules. The Bio-E initiative, which is being coordinated by the Severnside Alliance for Translational Research (SARTRE), promotes collaborations between the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter in the area of bioengineering.

 The team will prepare prototypes of a new design for biosensors for DNA (genosensors), combining optoelectronically and redox active DNA-binding building blocks, which have been developed at Cardiff University, with electrochemical sensing technology developed at the University of Bath (Figure 1).

Figure 1 showing an electrode surface with (a) single strand; (b) duplex; (c) sensitiser bound to DNA; (d) irradiated sensitiser

Figure 1 showing an electrode surface with (a) single strand; (b) duplex; (c) sensitiser bound to DNA; (d) irradiated sensitiser

It is anticipated that the combination of both approaches will enhance biosensing signals and push the limits of DNA detection, both in sensitivity and in spatially addressing parallel sensor designs. The final target of the project is an electrochemically and optically switchable genosensor with clear potential for miniaturisation and parallelisation.

Genosensors are of significant interest because they address the need for rapid diagnosis of, e.g., genetic disorders and infections by pathogens. Rapid diagnosis allows the earliest start of treatment, but also reduces the time during which patients currently have to wait for a diagnosis. Electrochemical genosensors are of particular interest because they are miniaturised more readily than optical sensors, typically require small sample volumes, little sample pre-treatment, and are suitable for use with portable instrumentation by minimally trained clinical personnel.