Research

Overview of Nanosensor Technology

We have developed several types of nanosensors aimed at measuring ion and small molecule concentrations in the intracellular and extracellular environment.  These nanosensors are composed of a variety of chemistries contained in a plasticized, fluorescent polymer bead.  The beads are produced in-house in minutes, and can easily be modified to change the concentration range and detectable analytes.

Area of Interest: Novel Sensor Development

We are planning to expand the range of analytes into new small molecules  and more ions.  We are also interested in pushing the limits of these sensors into measuring analytes that are biologically important, but heretofore impossible to measure due to limitations such as hydrodynamic radius , low concentrations, etc.  This will require work with the polymeric platform itself, particularly the inclusion of new types of polymers and recognition elements.

Area of Interest: Application of Nanosensors to Biological Systems

In addition to novel sensor development, we are focused on applying the sensors to solving real problems in biology and medicine.  We have developed collaborations with area clinicians and researchers to tackle these issues in a team approach.  Below is a sample of the areas we are currently working in.

Sodium Sparks in Cardiac Cells

Sodium Sparks in cardiac cells "light up" during action potential

The advent of fluorescent calcium indicators made possible a much greater understanding of the role of calcium in biological systems.  Today, there is no denying calcium’s function in disease and health.  The indicators for sodium, while available, have not proven themselves as robust, and thus there is not as much information on sodium dynamics, although they are critical to the body.  We have developed a nanosensor for sodium imaging that will open up the field and lead to an easier way to study sodium in biological systems.  This could lead to better screening tools for regulators of heart disease, better understanding of signaling in the brain, and a tool for basic research.

In vivo Glucose Monitoring

Nanosensor tattoo for monitoring glucose

Diabetes has become a national health-care crisis.  As a result of a seminal study highlighting the benefits of tight glycemic control, the American Diabetes Association recommends that patients with diabetes should try to control their glucose levels to be as close to normal as possible.  Self-monitoring of glucose is essential for regulation and is often performed through a finger-stick method three times or more per day.  The need to draw blood, even in small quantities, multiple times a day is not desirable.  There is a need for improved patient care.

Our long-term goal is to produce a glucose-sensitive nanosensor, that can be implanted like a tattoo and be used as an in vivo glucose monitor for diabetic care.  Subcutaneously implanted nanosensors could radically change the way diabetic monitoring is performed – providing the user a non-invasive, continuous monitoring system, vastly improving quality of both care and lifestyle.