CWRU med school teams up with U.S. Air Force research lab on biosensor project

CWRU med school teams up with U.S. Air Force research lab on biosensor project

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A new biophysics project at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine is partnering with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory in Dayton to develop biosensors to, as the university puts it, “understand and improve sensing of markers of stress and fatigue.”

The new project is the Case Center for Biomarker Structure and Integration for Sensors, or BioSIS. The medical school said in a post on CWRU’s The Daily site on Tuesday, March 23, that with $2 million from the Nano-Bio Materials Consortium — a public-private partnership created by the federal government to fund research and development for innovative medical technology — BioSIS is working with the Air Force research laboratory and the Air Force’s 711th Human Performance Wing to “develop technologies that detect biological indications of stress and fatigue in real time to monitor and improve pilot performance.”

Mark Chance, vice dean for research at the medical school and leader of the BioSIS project, said in a statement, “Our collaboration is focused on understanding what is happening at the core of the sensor, where the sensing elements recognize and capture stress-related molecules. The discovery and optimization engine that is the BioSIS program will drive the invention of new sensing approaches with wide-ranging implications for biology and medicine.”

The BioSIS work with the Air Force research lab is focused on new types of biosensors “capable of sensing stress and fatigue biomarkers present in sweat and other body fluids,” according to the release. The medical school said the sensing is done using a capture strategy by designing protein molecules that specifically bind and capture a “target” molecule — in this case a chemical called neuropeptide Y (NPY) that “transmits signals throughout the nervous system and is an important biomarker for stress,” according to the post in The Daily. Once that capture occurs, the medical school said, the sensor’s electrical properties change, producing a real-time electrical response that can be directly detected.

The long-term goal? A wearable biosensor “capable of real-time monitoring for dangerous biomarker changes to provide an added safety net for Air Force pilots,” the post stated.

“To meet the growing need for training a prepared and responsive Air Force, our collaboration is intended to produce improved technology at the human-machine interface — ultimately resulting in wearable monitors that provide real-time observation of biochemical and physiological markers correlated to human performance,” Chance said. “The project includes the initial discovery of novel sensor types and building prototype devices for testing — up to understanding market needs for commercial devices.”

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