Advances in the chemical sensor field are driven by the demands of the society and made possible thanks to the combined researchers expertise in different areas (chemistry, biology, biotechnology, photonics, material science, engineering). The basis for the development of optical chemosensors and bioassays to guarantee the citizens food safety and health, such as those for the analysis of mycotoxins and a cancer biomarker aimed in this project, is the same: selection of the most exquisite recognition element and optimization of a signal transduction mechanism to overcome the limitations of the devices available up to date, in terms of sensitivity, selectivity, response time and cost, for the detection of the target species. Significant advances have been achieved in the quest of novel bio(mimetic) recognition elements bound to avoiding the use of experimental animals for bioanalytical or diagnostic purposes as well as to widen the chemical optosensors scope.
We propose the utilisation of bioinspired molecularly imprinted polymers as artificial recognition elements and the application of phage display technologies for selecting recombinant antibodies and mimetic peptides that can be used to detect mycotoxins in food and clinical biomarkers. To that end we will blend those elements with improved functional nanomaterials (namely, fluorescent upconversion nanoparticles, catalytic molecular organic frameworks or nanozymes and luminescent core-shell nanobeads), (bio)luminescent proteins, and photochemical transduction techniques for the development of optical bio(mimetic)sensors and assays. These elements will be able to determine (a) the concentration of cyclopiazonic acid, alternariol, mycophenolic acid and the regulated zearalenone mycotoxin, in food samples, and (b) the tyrosine phosphatase receptor type N (PTPRN) protein in serum and plasma. The latter has been identified as a possible diagnostic marker to discriminate patients with Type 2 diabetes and colon cancer from those with only Type 2 diabetes.