Using biosensors to deliver personalized doses of antibiotics

Measuring the amount of vancomycin in a patient’s blood stream

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A group of eight EPFL understudies has concocted a convenient biosensor that can gauge the measure of vancomycin in a patient’s bloodstream, empowering specialists to better control the dose and reduce hurtful symptoms. Their technology could eventually be utilized for different antibiotics also.

At EPFL’s Discovery Learning Labs (DLL) – educational facilities intended to advance cross-disciplinary research – a groundbreaking new gadget is in progress. Eight Master’s understudies in microengineering, bioengineering and life sciences have collaborated (SenSwiss) to build up a portable biosensor as their entry in the SensUs competition, which is held at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands on 7– 8 September 2018.

Their device can give exact estimations of the measure of vancomycin, an anti-infection utilized if all else fails treatment, in a patient’s blood plasma. This data will enable specialists to convey precisely the measure of medication required and in this way lessen the event of hurtful symptoms. For example, vancomycin is known to make harm the kidneys and to hear.

Alix Faillétaz, a Master’s student in bioengineering said, “We started working on the biosensor last fall alongside our coursework, and this summer have been working on it full-time. Being able to use the DLL has made our research a lot easier, since they have all the equipment we need.”

“The competition was launched three years ago. It’s really demanding and is a huge challenge for the students. They must overcome a series of problems and learn to work together, trust each other and delegate tasks based on each individual’s specific skills,” says Professor Philippe Renaud, who is coaching the team.

SensUs plans to encourage the advancement of biosensors, focusing on an alternate application every year – despite the fact that the goal dependably identifies with estimating a biomarker with an effect on general wellbeing. The goal is picked by a board of specialists that includes Professor Renaud. Existing tests to quantify vancomycin require a lot of time, a lot of blood and a unique machine that costs a tens of thousands of Swiss francs.

But the EPFL team’s portable biosensor can take measurements in less than five minutes with just a few drops of blood, and costs under 5,000 francs. Their device shines a polarized light on a sample containing a homogeneous mixture of the patient’s blood plasma and a synthesized peptide (an amino acid sequence) solution.

Faillétaz said, “We first created a peptide that binds specifically to vancomycin, and then we added a fluorescent compound. As the vancomycin bonds to the fluorescent peptide, the peptide’s movement slows and the light it emits becomes more and more polarized. By measuring the degree of light polarization, we can calculate the vancomycin concentration in a patient’s blood.”

According to Professor Renaud, this method already exists but has never been used to make a portable biosensor.

David Vilela, a Master’s student in life sciences said, “By changing the synthesis compound, our biosensor could be used to detect other antibiotics and biomarkers.”