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UH Grad Student Develops Biosensor Chip

A graduate student at the University of Houston is developing a new technology that could help detect air-borne biological agents of the presence of diseases and viruses. If everything works out with Mrnal Shah’s research, his graduate work could result early detection for diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. It could also help bioterrorism researchers […]

A graduate student at the University of Houston is developing a new technology that could help detect air-borne biological agents of the presence of diseases and viruses.

If everything works out with Mrnal Shah’s research, his graduate work could result early detection for diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. It could also help bioterrorism researchers quickly and accurately detect biological agents. Shah is developing a new kind of biosensor chip. Shah says a biosensor is a device that detects biological molecules.

Biosensor chips are already in use for things like water quality control or checking glucose levels. But the current process of using biochips is very tedious. Shah says his technique called liquid-liquid phase separation makes the process easier and faster. Liquid-liquid phase separation works similarly to the process in which oil and water separate. Under this technique, he makes use of tiny droplets of protein solution that work to detect the biological molecules.

Which means, in theory, that anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 protein molecules could be attached to an electrode or semi-conducting surface and used for detection. Shah says a possible real-world scenario could be if a biological warhead is deployed, a biochip could be dropped into the environment to relay back information.

The biochips could also be used in the body to detect early stages of some protein-based diseases and could help combat mad-cow disease or even anthrax. The next step in the process is for Shah to figure out how to take the biosensor protein out of the liquid solution and attach it to an electrode without losing it’s active properties. He says his research could be developed into a viable biochip within the next five years.

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Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Executive Producer for News

Laurie Johnson leads daily news coverage for HPM. She helps reporters craft and sharpen their stories on tight deadlines, with the aim of getting the most relevant and current information into local newscasts. Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. She is...

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