Volatile organic compound sensing in healthcare using optical interrogation of metal-organic frameworks

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Faculty of Engineering


Real time detection of certain chemical compounds, referred to as biomarkers, excreted from human body which are related to metabolic processes and chemical composition of drugs in human samples such as breath, blood, urine, sweat and saliva can provide a valuable information about patients' physiological conditions. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the human body have the potential to identify and monitor various diseases such as lung cancer, diabetes and the presence of drugs in the body. The key to precise sensing is to be able to detect a biomarker at low concentrations (high sensitivity) but not be affected by other compounds (high specificity). A metal-organic framework (MOF) is a material current used in applications such as gas storage but has not been extensively exploited in sensing.
This proposal aims to develop a disruptive sensing platform based on measuring optical changes in MOFs and to apply this to challenges in healthcare. To achieve the optimum performance and provide the potential for scale-up and widespread use, it is essential to have a robust manufacturing process. In this application we will develop a new sensor fabrication process based on (i) screening, designing and synthesising the MOF structures to provide the highest sensitivity and selectivity towards the target; (ii) coating an optical fibre using microwave processing to ensure optimum surface coverage and maximum sensitivity; (iii) implementing on a optical fibre configured to provide easy use with high sensitivity.
As an end to end process exemplar, we will implement a sensing platform with high sensitivity and selectivity to rapidly monitor clinically relevant concentrations of the anaesthetic propofol present in the breath. This is important key to improving survival in intensive care is monitoring of the vital physiological parameters such as patient's hemodynamics, temperature, respiratory rate, ventilation, nutrition, and metabolism, as well as the accurate and continuous monitoring of concentration of drugs and biomarkers in blood.
Crucially, the proposed methodology can be extended to other VOCs such as ketones, aldehydes and alcohols that can be used as biomarkers for different diseases, such as lung cancer and diabetes, or indicators of the metabolism of drugs.


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