Purdue Biosensor Measures Efficacy of Epilepsy and Seizure Treatments

Marshall Porterfield
Professor Marshall Porterfield
Jenna Rickus
Professor Jenna Rickus
Porterfield with student
Professor Porterfield (right) discusses research with a graduate student in the lab

A new biosensor developed by researchers at Purdue University can measure whether neurons are performing correctly when communicating with each other, giving researchers a tool to test the effectiveness of new epilepsy or seizure treatments.

Marshall Porterfield, an associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering and biomedical engineering, and team developed the self-referencing glutamate biosensor to measure real-time glutamate flux of neural cells in a living organism. The nanosensor not only measures glutamate around neural cells, it can tell how those cells are releasing or taking up glutamate, a key to those cells' health and activity.

"Before we did this, people were only getting at glutamate indirectly or through huge, invasive probes," said Porterfield, whose research was published in the early online version of the Journal of Neuroscience Methods. "With this sensor, we can 'listen' to glutamate signaling from the cells."

Collaborator Jenna Rickus, an associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering and biomedical engineering, who oversaw the study's neurological aspects, said researchers need more information about how neurons work to create more effective treatments for neurological disorders. "Understanding neurotransmitter dynamics has implications for almost all normal and pathological brain function," Rickus said.

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