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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R029296/1
Title: Development of a polymer-based sensing platform for the thermal detection of antimicrobial resistance
Principal Investigator: Peeters, Dr M
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
University of Maastricht
Department: School of Science and the Environment
Organisation: Manchester Metropolitan University
Scheme: New Investigator Award
Starts: 01 July 2018 Ends: 30 June 2020 Value (£): 205,241
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Manufact. Enterprise Ops& Mgmt
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
30 Jan 2018 HT Investigator-led Panel Meeting - January 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Antibiotics revolutionized modern medicine, but these 'wonder' drugs are under threat due to the rapid emergence of antimicrobial resistant bacterial strains that no longer respond to standard antibiotic treatment. This endangers current standard procedures, such as major surgery, cancer therapy and organ transplantation. Monitoring these resistant strains is key to combating them.

In this proposal, we will produce a biosensor for the detection of bacteria, particularly those with antimicrobial resistance. In a simple and low-cost manner, we can rapidly identify the source of bacterial infection to enable clinicians to develop a personalized treatment plan that will benefit patients' care.

In addition, we will expand this to an array format for the simultaneous detection of bacteria and antibiotics, which can serve to screen (food) samples for antibiotic residues and will provide valuable insight into how bacteria develop AMR properties.

We will use a technique called molecular imprinting for producing the sensor platform. These Molecularly Imprinted Polymers (MIPs) are often referred to as "plastic" antibodies. These materials have a porous structure, with high affinity binding sites for their target molecule. Their advantages over "natural" antibodies include low-cost, straightforward preparation, robustness, and ability to work in extreme environments (pH, adverse temperatures and organic solvents).

Prior work in the PI's group has shown that binding of targets to imprinted polymers can alter the conduction of heat through the polymer essentially blocking heat-flow. This can lead to a temperature differential which can be measured by a thermal sensor (thermocouple device). This change in heat-flow is dependent on target concentration. This method, patented as the Heat-Transfer Method (HTM), has only been studied with MIP microstructures. In this proposal, we will take a novel electrochemical approach to develop MIP nanolayers that will increase the sensitivity of the developed sensor platform.

This project consists of the following steps:

(a) Use of electrochemical methods to prepare MIP sensors.

We will prepare nanometre thick bacterial imprinted layers functionalised onto electrodes from five different monomers, which have been identified from literature databases to bind bacteria. Using HTM it will be determined which monomer has the highest potential to bind a particular bacterial strain allowing us to optimise the MIP. A series of medically relevant targets (including Staphylococcus aureus strains, some of which exhibit antimicrobial resistance) will be measured and the sensor performance will be optimised in terms of time, selectivity and affinity.

(b) Thermal measurements of bacterial in buffered solutions

We will perform thermal measurements with the MIP sensors (library of six bacteria) to evaluate the bacterial loads in buffered solutions. These measurements will be validated against current gold-standard techniques (ELISA, genotyping) to determine the accuracy and precision of the developed thermal sensing strategy.

(c) Thermal measurements of "complex" samples

Clinical or food samples are complex matrices - we will evaluate if we can selectively detect certain bacterial strains in the presence of an excess of other (harmless) bacteria. Finally, we will explore if we can transform this sensor into an array format for the simultaneous detection of bacteria and antibiotics, by integrating MIPs specific for antibiotic compounds.

This proposal will build the research portfolio of the PI, establish her independence, and lay the foundation of a multidisciplinary and exciting research programme. A project partner at Maastricht will provide advice on thermal measurements and serve for knowledge exchange visits. The developed sensor platform has commercial potential due to its low-cost and simplicity and the PI will explore its this during the project timeline.
Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.mmu.ac.uk