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Next generation infra-red glucose biosensors

Biosciences Institute

Dr Adam Wollman , Dr N Helassa Friday, January 22, 2021 Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
Newcastle United Kingdom Biochemistry Biomedical Engineering Molecular Biology

About the Project

Glucose is a key metabolite for microorganisms, the most important energy source in more complex organisms and the key product of photosynthesis in plants. It is therefore crucial across the biological sciences to be able to accurately map glucose concentrations in living organisms and cells, as well as in medicine, where monitoring patient glucose levels is vital, particularly in diseases like diabetes. The technology powering blood glucose monitoring devices used routinely in hospitals is electro-chemical, requiring invasive physical sampling. New sensor technology is in development which uses light to measure glucose concentrations. It works using a fluorescent molecular probe which binds glucose and changes the colour of fluorescently emitted light. These biosensors are entirely made of protein so can even be expressed natively in the organism. The problem is that currently these biosensors use visible wavelengths of light which are absorbed by tissues.

This project will develop the next generation of glucose biosensors using infra-red fluorophores. Light at these wavelengths passes through tissues and organisms much more easily and makes the biosensor technology compatible with many other commonly used optical microscopy techniques. Different infra-red fluorophores will be tested and a range of biosensors sensitive to different glucose concentrations will be developed to maximise applicability to different biological problems. Biosensors will be tested in test tubes but also in live cells, including model yeast and mammalian cell lines. Live cell experiments will use standard confocal and epifluorescence microscopy but also cutting-edge super resolution and single-molecule microscopy. Data will be analysed using simple software, with the opportunity to use Matlab and develop new software tools. Extensive training will be provided, including molecular cloning, protein design production and purification, the design of biosensors, as well as microscopy and image analysis. Thus this project would suit a range of different backgrounds across the sciences. This is a highly interdisciplinary project with potential for real impact in the biological sciences and also potential medical application in patient glucose monitoring.

Informal enquiries may be made to


Applications should be made by emailing with a CV and a covering letter, including whatever additional information you feel is pertinent to your application; you may wish to indicate, for example, why you are particularly interested in the selected project/s and at the selected University. Applications not meeting these criteria will be rejected. We will also require electronic copies of your degree certificates and transcripts.

In addition to the CV and covering letter, please email a completed copy of the Application Details Form (Word document) to , noting the additional details that are required for your application which are listed in this form. A blank copy of this form can be found at:

Funding Notes

Studentships are funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) for 4 years. Funding will cover tuition fees at the UK rate only, a Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG) and stipend. We aim to support the most outstanding applicants from outside the UK and are able to offer a limited number of bursaries that will enable full studentships to be awarded to international applicants. These full studentships will only be awarded to exceptional quality candidates, due to the competitive nature of this scheme.
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