Analytical Chemistry (prof. dr. M.W.F. Nielen)

The special chair on Analytical Chemistry with special emphasis on the detection of chemical food contaminants has been established in 2007 within the Laboratory of Organic Chemistry. Focus of the chair is on research in bioactivity-related detection and mass spectrometric identification for chemical contaminants in the food chain, ultimately leading to the identification of emerging unknown bioactive contaminants. Within this scope, innovations in advanced mass spectrometry, biosensing, toxicology and microfluidics are being integrated.

Four exciting interrelated research themes are studied in 2016:

1. Multiplex screening using planar arrays of color-encoded microspheres

Classical biorecognition based screening assays, such as ELISAs, measure only one type of biointeraction at a time. Suspension or planar arrays based on color-encoded microspheres allow parallel detection of multiple binding assays in a single well. This topic is being explored for multi-detection of mycotoxins in beer (PhD student Jeroen Peters). Alternatively, biorecognition can be exploited as a bioaffinity sample preparation tool, prior to mass spectrometric detection (PhD student Nathalie Smits).

2. Nanostructured Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) portable biosensors.

In SPR, real-time biosensing is feasible without labelling of the analytes. However, sensor miniaturization and the overall performance is highly dependent on gold nanostructures and the quality of surface modification. New generation nanostructured SPR tools can be developed, as for example explored in our NWO/COAST project on nanostructured imaging SPR (PhD student Sweccha Joshi).

3. Next generation ambient Mass Spectrometry Imaging (ambient MSI).

Another NWO/COAST project was granted aiming for the development of the next generation Laser Ablation Electrospray Ionization (LAESI) ambient MSI equipment. In this collaborative project, the group of Prof. Ron Heeren (M4I/Maastricht University) will focus on hardware improvement, while we will explore the options for chemical modifications during the ionization of the ablated plume, aiming for sensitivity and selectivity enhancements. Model systems are polymer surfaces and bioaffinity surfaces (PhD student: Fred van Geenen).

4. Mass spectrometry to detect the functional dynamics of gut-on-a-chip systems

In the NWO project GUTTEST, sensitive and selective mass spectrometry detection platforms will be designed for on-line coupling to compartmentalized microfluidic gastrointestinal chips. This will result in an orthogonal total analysis system in which the functional dynamics of cells and tissues can be studied, ultimately replacing classical animal trials (PhD student: Milou Santbergen).