While there has been great advancement in the development of sensors that can be used for monitoring of patients in a variety of conditions, there is still a need for sensors that are non-invasive, effective and cost-efficient. For example, nearly all current commercially available glucose (sugar) monitoring devices for diabetics are invasive, requiring diabetics to frequently prick their skin in order to obtain the blood sample required to test the glucose. Additionally, rising healthcare costs and aging of the world population has led to a need for long-term, accurate and affordable monitoring of patients’ health conditions, especially when they are outside of a clinical environment. There is remarkable promise in a set of non-invasive sensors that can be used to monitor the health status of a patient using his or her sweat, urine and tears. Unfortunately, at this stage, there is not yet a fully reliable non-invasive sensor, thus development of these sensors is still ongoing.
Figure 1. Patient being monitored using non-invasive sensors and techniques.
The White Group at UMBC conducts research that combines biology, electrochemistry, which is the branch of chemistry that is concerned with electron transfer in chemical reactions, and nanoscience, which is the study of objects or materials on the scale of nanometers (for reference, this page, if it were to be printed, would be 75,000 nanometers thick). Our research group focuses on developing various methods to physically examine different chemical and biological systems. For example, my specific project focuses on preparing and testing sensors that are modified with specific DNA or RNA sequences, known as aptamers. These aptamer-based sensors are thus known as biosensors, which are sensors composed of a biological component. The eventual goal of my work on these aptamer-based biosensors, as well development of other biosensors in the White Group, is to have these biosensors be used as non-invasive, reliable and cost-efficient monitoring of patients in order to answer important biochemical and medical questions, as well as to improve patient care.