A birthday gift idea to myself, pretty but poisonous

 

Hi everyone,

This is my birthday week and I have got myself a pretty gift. I was looking at Aspergillus flavus fungus picture under the microscope, awesome flowers. I thought immediately they would make a perfect birthday gift. Of course, I am kidding, these pretty molds are quite dangerous, they produce carcinogenic aflatoxins and they must be avoided at any cost. I guess now you might be curious about what I have really got myself for my birthday. Well, I have already celebrated with my colleagues at CSEM with some delicious cake during 10.00 AM coffee break and of course, it won’t be just it. I can’t wait for this weekend to party hard with my friends and relatives in Lausanne. Like always, I also will have some self-care special treatment to pamper myself, you know the usual girl style stuff, painting my nails, buying a pretty dress, taking a hot relaxing bath with bath salts and candlelight and watch some cheesy romantic movie.

As I am almost half-way through my Ph.D. project by now, I can’t stop thinking 24-7 about aflatoxins detection in food samples. Till now, I worked mainly on the development of the electrochemical sensing platforms based on the aptamer and antibody as the biorecognition elements. There still remains to integrate the sensing part with an automated sample preparation system and make the final prototype interfacing with the smartphone. As any other Ph.D. project, it is a huge body of work with a very demanding level of the efficiency during long working hours and it might be a bit difficult to keep your motivation and inspiration high at all times. However, there is always a few nice sparks of motivation here and there. That was what happened to me a few weeks earlier when an interview about my research as part of FoodSmartphone project has been published in the local newspaper “Bündner Woche” both in German and English languages. You can find the link at the end of this blog. A few days later, I received an email from a reader with a picture of some moldy conserved jar of apricots and she wanted to know since the apricots are intact with no mold, if it would be OK to eat them and if the mold is poisonous or not? These questions just reminded me that how much easy and fast food safety testing is an everyday life need and how much our final prototypes could be useful and beneficial in these types of situations. It made me feel a greater appreciation for the research and have more motivation to work even harder.

Highly motivated and passionate, I continue my work on the magnetic bead-based immunosensor for aflatoxins detection right now. In this type of sensor, all the reactions needed for aflatoxins detection happens on the magnetic beads and then we can use a magnet to control the magnetic beads flow and move them to the detection part of the system. I am testing this sensor for the detection of aflatoxins in the corn samples at the moment. However, a similar platform could be used for other types of food samples such as milk. Rather than focusing just on my own research and the target analyte (aflatoxins), I also had a great opportunity to get more familiar with optical detection system on a smartphone since my good friend and fellow ESR Aris is here with us on his secondment. He is working on development of the sample channels on the paper strip test by wax printing. His work is amazing and he is already using the smartphone as the reader for his tests. I am also quite excited for the upcoming FoodSmartphone summer school in Belfast and can’t wait to meet up with all the other colleagues involved in the project and get updated about all the amazing work they have done and the results obtained. Till my next blog,

Chao,

PS. The link to the interview is here:

https://reader.somedia.ch/epaper/pdf/blaettern.php?publication=wzbw&date=2019-02-27

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