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Development of a rRNA-biosensor for the detection of toxic algae (ALGADEC)


Toxin-producing microalgae have been responsible for great environmental, economic and public health catastrophes throughout history. These "Harmful Algal Blooms" are known to cause a wide range of detrimental effects such as cutaneous damage in swimmers, nervous and digestive disturbances through contaminated seafood, which can even lead to death, physical impairment of fish and shellfish, and degradation of habitats. Moreover, these direct effects of toxic algae have important economic impacts for instan ce in tourism, fishing and fish fanning. In the last decades the problem has turned more and more critical, because alteration of ecological systems as a consequence of human activity seems to enhance proliferation of toxin-producing algae. A concentratio n of only a few cells per litre of some microalgae may produce harmful toxic effects. Therefore, developing and commercialising an adequate device to spot such organisms would be of great utility in order to avoid, for instance, their appearance in fish fa rms. The specific recognition of a poisonous strain is however complicated. A distinction at molecular level is necessary in order to discriminate between harmful and inoffensive strains, which are, in some cases morphologically identical. The project her e presented aims at developing a biological sensor capable of detecting rapidly and specifically the presence of harmful algal blooms. The in-situ specific recognition of algae's ribosomal RNA will be possible by means of a Sandwich-Hybridisation on an ele ctrochemical sensor. A multi-probe chip will be designed to obtain tailor made sensors containing the most relevant species for a determined area. In order to achieve an adequate device for field applications, a fluidic cell and a warming chamber, as well as the corresponding control software will be developed to automate and optimise the hybridisation process. Thanks to the characteristics above described the ALGADEC device will constitute an adequate device for HABs monitoring. In addition, all developme nts will be performed aiming at the achievement of a cost-effective device in order to enable fish- and shellfish-farmers to check the toxic algal levels of their waters and thus take the corresponding measures to prevent economic loses and to ensure produ ct safety.

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Stresemannstr. 46

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Participants (12)