Dr. Carmen Gomes, assistant professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at Texas A&M University, is part of a team that has been awarded a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation.
Gomes and her Co-PI, Dr. Eric McLamore from the University of Florida, will receive $340,000 for their research project “Nanoengineering biomimetic nanobrushes for pathogen sensing.”
“This represents the first attempt to create biomimetic nanobiosensors based on the selective capture of bacteria by cilia in the bobtail squid light organ, which is expected to have two distinct advantages over other biosensors: enhanced capture of target bacteria due to less non-specific binding and enhanced limit of detection and sensitivity,” said Gomes.
According to the researchers, recent foodborne outbreaks have heightened public concern about food safety and have created a greater impetus to improve methods for pathogen detection.
The biomimetic approach in this work is inspired by selective recruitment of symbiotic bacteria by ciliate actuation in the bobtail squid light organ, which is capable of capturing a specific target species from a solution with a complex microbial background and a wide range of particle sizes. The researchers aim to combine the actuation of stimuli-responsive polymers with selective capture of bacteria by aptamers immobilized on the polymer surface to increase selective capture and retention of target pathogens.
The nanotechnology platform is expected to significantly improve the field of pathogen detection.
Gomes earned her bachelor’s degree in food engineering from the Federal University of Vicosa — Brazil, and her Ph.D. in biological and agricultural engineering from Texas A&M.