A pinboard by
Maria Weber

I am PhD student at the University of Bath working at the interface of chemistry and biology.


Molecular sensors as a diagnostic tool for non-communicable diseases

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of death in the world: 63 % of all annual deaths originate from NCD. NCD are by definition non-infectious and non-transmissible. These include heart diseases, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. All of these are chronic diseases, and hence, long lasting and slow in progression. NCD are of great concern in developed and underdeveloped countries. In the large majority of countries, NCD account for more than 70% of all deaths. Despite intensive research and development in the area of NCD, significant challenges in the development of new drugs, diagnostic tools and technologies remain. Given the variety of different conditions within each disease area, the geographical role also plays a significant role. Most treatments and diagnostic tools are either poorly used in developing countries since access is limited or inadequate for the NCD in this area due to considerable genetic variation and environmental factors.

The need for early detection tools has led to significant advancements in the field of molecular sensors. Molecular sensors can be designed in such a way that they are selective and sensitive to a particular target. Our group is mostly interested in exploring fluorescent molecular sensors. These rely on the on-off effect of fluorescence. Once a particular analyte comes into contact with the molecular sensor, the sensor will be switched on and emit a fluorescence signal. The main challenge with molecular sensors is to achieve selectivity and sensitivity towards a particular analyte i.e. target.

Our group is mainly interested in sensing reactive oxygen species (ROS). Increased levels of ROS have been linked to NCD in particular cancer and diabetes but also to neurodegeneration and metabolic disorders. Hence, selective and sensitive targeting of a particular ROS is highly challenging as they are very short lived species. The ultimate aim is to develop new diagnostic tools which will allow for earlier detection of NCD and consequently, allow for earlier treatment of patients and a reduced financial costs for families and the healthcare sector.