The Sci-Files – 04/18/2021 – Emma Dester and Saad Sharief – Saving Lives with Nano-Biosensors

Chelsie Boodoo and Daniel Puentes

Emma Dester headshot
Emma Dester

On this week’s The Sci-Files, your hosts Chelsie and Danny interview Emma Dester and Saad Sharief. Emma is a dual-enrolled BS/MD student in the MSU Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Department (BAE). She has been doing research in the Nano-Biosensors Laboratory for almost four years. Saad is a Ph.D. student, also in BAE, and is currently in his 4th year of the graduate program. His research interests lie in the synthesis and applications of nanomaterials, biosensors for pathogen detection, and anti-counterfeiting technologies to prevent drug trafficking.

The Nano-Biosensors Laboratory focuses on developing cost-effective and rapid diagnostic methods that require less equipment and

Saad Sharief in lab
Saad Sharief

labor than traditional approaches. For the past year, both Emma and Saad have been working on nanoparticle-based methods to rapidly identify foodborne pathogens. In the United States alone, these pathogens are responsible for over 3,000 deaths each year. Traditional methods for detecting these common pathogens (Salmonella spp., Listeria monocytogenes, Bacillus cereus, and Escherichia coli ) are a time-consuming process and require at least 24-48 hours. Their research focuses on the rapid identification of these organisms, reducing both the time and cost associated with these traditional methods. First, they use magnetic nanoparticles (MNPs) to extract bacteria from contaminated food. After extracting bacterial DNA, they use a simple colorimetric test to detect the presence of target bacteria. This test uses a gold nanoparticle-based assay and has the potential to produce results in under five minutes. Although research is still ongoing, current progress shows this new method to be a promising time-saving and life-saving technique for detecting pathogens in food.

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