New Technologies for Neurotransmitter and Hormone Detection in Genuine Biofluid Specimens from Tumor Patients

Porous hydrogel

In medical diagnostics, early detection of tumors via bioactive small molecules, including neurotransmitters and hormones, presents a critical need and a significant challenge. Current diagnostic methods, such as high performance liquid chromatography coupled with mass detection (HPLC-MS/MS), offer precise measurements but are not practical for quick, point-of-care testing or for use in community clinics and at home.

Project details


Project management

Our HEiKA project aims to synergistically integrate molecular research with two-photon polymerization techniques, paving the path toward chemosensor-based medical diagnostics. Our objective is to establish a cost-efficient, fluorescence-based assay for the quantification of bioactive small molecules, serving as broad-spectrum indicators for tumor conditions. Within this project's scope, KIT will refine its patented "SupraSensor" platform to improve its stability in protein-containing biofluids and enhance its differential sensing capabilities. This will be achieved by implementing a phospholipid-based vesicle coating strategy. Concurrently, HD will exploit both the parent and coated SupraSensors, functionalizing them with polymerizable monomers. Subsequent polymerization will create micropatterned hydrogels featuring hierarchical pore structures. These SupraSensor-functional hydrogels will be embedded into standard 96-well microplates to facilitate a user-friendly assay for neurotransmitters and hormones.

Our technological invention will culminate in a bench-top stable diagnostic system that mitigates error-prone liquid handling steps while facilitating rapid mass transport of target analytes towards immobilized SupraSensor particles. In collaboration with Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg (UKHD), we will conduct validation studies using authentic biofluid samples, such as urine and blood, from both tumor patients and a control group. Utilizing UKHD's expertise in high-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS/MS), we will corroborate the assay's precision and sensitivity under real-world conditions.

Upon securing proof-of-concept data through this HeiKa initiative, our collaborative consortium intends to apply for supplementary, large-scale third-party funding. Thus, the Heika project would serve as a stepping stone toward the further development and future commercialization of low-cost, facile diagnostic assays for small-molecule biomarkers.