There is a growing market to develop tests for the straightforward, fast and low-cost detection of biomolecules. The recognition element in these tests is traditionally based on antibodies, which are expensive, relatively unstable and require the use of animals in their production. Polymers, or “plastic” antibodies, are able to mimic the properties of natural antibodies and are able to overcome these drawbacks.
Researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) have developed a new biosensing platform utilising plastic antibodies that is compatible with multiple detection methods including standard electrochemical, optical and gravimetry techniques, as well as two novel thermal methods developed at MMU. The synthetic antibodies, referred to as molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs), are made by polymerizing vinylic monomers in the presence of a specific target. After removal of the target, a porous structure is obtained with imprints that have a high specificity towards the target. The MIPs are integrated into Screen-Printed Electrodes (SPEs) by mixing the imprinted polymer particles with screen-printing ink and transferring it onto a substrate.
The unique advantage of using polymer antibodies is that they can be tailored for multiple applications. The MMU researchers have experience in measuring small neurotransmitters, bacteria, and even whole cells; ensuring the developed MIPs and sensor platform will appeal to a large audience. Because of the low cost of the developed method and ability to measure samples on-site, it is extremely suitable for screening purposes. Additionally, because they don’t require the use of animals at any stage of their development, every MIP that is produced for a specific target avoids the immunisation and subsequent sacrifice of these animals.
The MMU technology developers are now seeking partners from academia and industry for (i) access to biological samples; (ii) engineering/software expertise in the miniaturisation of the set up and development of an app that improves usability; and (iii) users to implement the methodology to replace existing immunoassay tests.
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