The study will be performed by undertaking a literature study into the use of molecularly imprinted polymers for use in assays and sensors. This will be followed by computer modelling of molecularly imprinted polymers for three examples of mycotoxins (fumonisin B1, deoxynivalenol and patulin) to determine the feasibility of designing polymers capable of recognising mycotoxin templates.
The detection of toxins such as patulin in apple juice, deoxynivalenol/nivalenol in temperate cereals and fumonisins in maize-based products has become very important to assess exposure levels of consumers. At present, Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) and High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) are the predominant methods used for the routine analysis and detection of mycotoxins in food.
These systems are, however, expensive and require a high level of technical expertise to operate. In order to enhance the rapidity of routine testing and to reduce the costs of such tests, the feasibility of using molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) in a sensor format will be investigated.
MIPs can act as excellent alternatives to natural receptors, such as antibodies. These polymers retain a high affinity and specificity to their target analytes. Furthermore, MIPs offer a number of advantages compared to other recognition systems (such as antibodies) and these include:
a high tolerance to mechanical and thermal stress
<br>excellent storage stability
<br>a comparatively low price for material preparation<p>
The use of MIPs to recognise target analytes is not a new approach. However, there have been recent developments in computer aided rational design of MIPs as well as methods of incorporating them into solid (membrane) supports. The potential of using such methods to produce MIPs for routine analysis and detection of mycotoxins in food matrices will be explored.
<p>Find more about this project and other FSA food safety-related projects at the <a href="http://www.food.gov.uk/science/research/" target="_blank">Food
Standards Agency Research webpage</a>.