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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/D504805/1
Title: Development of Diamond Ultramicroelectrode Tips for use in Scanning Electrochemical Microscopy Studies of Living Cells
Principal Investigator: Holt, Professor KB
Other Investigators:
Caruana, Professor D
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: UCL
Scheme: Standard Research (Pre-FEC)
Starts: 07 November 2005 Ends: 06 February 2007 Value (£): 33,962
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Analytical Science Cells
Materials Synthesis & Growth
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology Healthcare
Related Grants:
Panel History:  
Summary on Grant Application Form
The electrochemical technique used in this proposal is called Scanning Electrochemical Microscopy (SECM), where an electrode of radius about a hundreth of a millimetre is located a very small distance from a surface and records the current. In this proposal we will use this technique to measure the electrochemistry taking place near the surface of live cells.A problem commonly encountered in electrochemistry is that molecules stick to the electrode surface and poison or foul it. When this occurs, electron transfer to the electrode is blocked and the current cannot be measured or is not reproducible. This happens often in experiments involving cells because there are large molecules present that the cells require to live, such as glucose, or the cells sometimes produces a lot of chemicals that stick to electrodes. Most electrode materials such as platinum and graphite suffer from poisoning very quickly. The important factor in this project is that we want to use a new electrode material in our experiments: diamond. It is known that diamond does not get poisoned as easily as other electrode materials, as molecules do not stick to it. Diamond is normally an insulator but can be grown using a gas mixture of methane and hydrogen and doped with boron to give conducting layers. It is a very good electrode material as it is extremely stable and unreactive. It has been used in many previous applications but we want to grow very small electrodes and use them to study how living cells behave.In one aspect of this project the electrode will be located over some living bacteria cells and electron transfer between a probe molecule in solution and the bacteria will be measured, by following the electrochemistry of the probe. This is to study the function of enzymes involved in respiration and how the cell behaves when they are damaged. As the mitochondria within human cells respire in an identical fashion to bacteria this can help us understand what happen when mitochondria become damaged and how this can cause disease. In another experiment, the electrode will be modified with an enzyme that breaks down alcohol, alcohol dehydrogenase. The modified electrode will be located over yeast cells and can be used to detect ethanol that the yeast cells produce when they ferment glucose. The effect of different conditions, for example temperature, glucose and oxygen concentration on the production of ethanol will be determined. As well as testing the function of the enzyme modified electrode, these experiments will give useful information about the best conditions for ethanol production.
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