Principal Investigator
Isabel Cunha

Leader Institution

Research Teams


CY-SENSORS: Biosensor and biomimetic recognition element based devices for detection and separation of cyanobacteria metabolites with ecotoxicological and therapeutical applications

The project aims to develop a) high throughput multiplex real-time biosensors, based on aptamers and reporter cells, to monitor biotoxins in marine and freshwater environments b) a new biplex bioassay to screen marine and freshwater cyanobacteria, to identify and isolate bioactive compounds with therapeutic applications, acting through transactivation of PPARs, and c) a new technology to separate cyanotoxins using molecular imprinted polymers (MIPs). Cyanobacteria and microalgae produce toxic blooms that are becoming increasingly frequent, mainly due to water quality degradation and other global changes that have serious socio-economic impacts on e.g. aquaculture, fisheries and drinking water quality. There is an urge for low cost, rapid and sensitive biotoxins monitoring methods to assist risk analysis, providing data for safe decision and modelling. Cyanotoxins are used as chromatography standards by laboratories charged of seafood safety control all over the world and have an extremely high added market value.  MIPs will allow the separation of target compounds with a much lower ecologic footpath, since the use of solvents is restricted. Cyanobacteria constitute a promising bio-resource for the diverse range of metabolites, produced during primary and secondary metabolism, with bio-industrial applications, other than cyanotoxins, including compounds with therapeutic applications that have already been identified (e.g. anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-helminthic, antimitotic, anticancer, anticoagulation, and hemagglutinating properties). Cell based sensing is a promising alternative to the existing bio-sensing techniques, as cells have the capability of identifying very minute concentrations of a given active compound, providing the opportunity to screen with high sensitivity a broad range of chemically active substances which affect the electrochemical activity of cells. The project will be led by CIIMAR/LEGE/ Blue Biotechnology and Ecotoxicology (BBE) group, a reference in the Blue Biotechnology domain in the North of Portugal and in the country, having as partner ISEP/Cintesis/BioMark), a leader group in biosensors, DNA aptasensors and plastic antibodies, used in the field of health also to deliver drugs, with major benefits over the antibodies of animal origin used nowadays, as intended in the present project, but for industrial and environmental applications.