Synthetic DNA Sensors
Doxorubicin is a common chemotherapy drug used to fight a number of different cancers. Because every patient is different, the length of time that this drug stays in the body changes from person to person. This is a problem because too little drug will not have any effect, but too much drug will produce serious side effects. Right now, doctors address this problem by drawing blood samples at specific times, measuring the amount of drug using complicated equipment, and making informed guesses about the amount of drug between each reading. This is not ideal. A better approach would be a device which could take continuous readings for a long period of time. This would save time and expense. More importantly, it would provide better outcomes, since you could immediately fix dosing.
Our lab builds sensors out of pieces of synthetic DNA that use electrochemistry to measure target molecules in a very specific way. An electrical signal is produced when the correct target molecule is present and no electrical signal when the target molecule is not present. The current sensor is able to detect doxorubicin, but only in certain solvents. Our goal is to have it work with a sample of whole blood, like that taken at the doctors office. By changing the way we measure the signal, we might be able to improve the performance in whole blood, which would let us monitor the amount of drug in real time.