Edwin L. Aguirre
Electrical Engineering Assoc. Prof. Joel Therrien, along with Profs. Susan Braunhut of Biology and Kenneth Marx of Chemistry, has developed a “nanocanary
,” a living-cell-based biosensor capable of continuously monitoring the physiological state of the live cells contained within it.
The grants, which amount to $25,000 each, are given by the UMass President’s Office to professors with the best chances of turning their technologies into commercial success.
From Carbon Nanotubes to Cancer Cells
“Our biosensor has a wide range of applications, from toxicology testing of engineered nanomaterials to customized therapeutics and drug discovery,” says Therrien.
“In testing the toxicity of carbon nanotubes, for example, since the sensor can directly detect adverse effects on living cells, we are able to identify the threshold concentration at which carbon nanotubes lead to the cells’ death,” he says. “The sensor can also be used to test the response of normal and cancerous cells to drug therapies. In the future, this technology may help guide oncologists in selecting the most appropriate drug for a cancer patient. We also see the potential for this to partially replace animals in testing drugs and other products.”
Initial funding for the team’s research came from the U.S. Army Research Lab and the National Science Foundation.
“We will use the CVIP funds to develop beta versions of the sensor that can be given to external groups for trials,” says Therrien.