Harnessing Quorum Sensing for Detection and Identification of Single Cell Pathogenic Bacteria

Interdisciplinary Areas: Engineering-Medicine

Project Description

Bacteria communicate via quorum sensing (QS), adjusting behaviors according to population density. This project proposes a novel approach to exploit QS for detection and identification of unculturable bacterial strains. Our goal is to transform QS chemical signals into biochemical fingerprints, allowing early-stage single cell detection regardless of bacterial strain.
Two main aims will guide our research. First, we aim to develop a microfluidic device that enhances QS signals by clustering single bacterial cells from two types of pathogens: gram-negative Pseudomonas Aeruginosa and gram-positive Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Cells will be encapsulated into semipermeable alginate microgel droplets, stimulating the production of universal AI-2 signaling molecules. These molecules will diffuse towards a sensing device capable of capturing these targets.
Second, we aim to establish a mechanism to capture autoinducers and sense bacteria using printed interdigitated electrodes coated with molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs). By measuring changes in surface electrical properties upon target binding, we can confirm the presence of bacteria.
This project presents an exciting intersection of bacterial communication and biosensing technologies with the potential for profound impacts on pathogen detection and future infectious disease management. 


Start Date

January 1, 2024


Postdoc Qualifications

1. Ph.D. in Microbiology, Bioengineering, Biotechnology, Biochemistry, Materials Science or a related field
2. Experience in Biosensor Development and/or Microfluidics
3. The ability to analyze and interpret data and develop predictive models is a plus
4. Strong writing and communication skills
5. Ability to work independently and as part of a team, including experience supervising undergraduate or graduate students.


Lia Stanciu, School of Materials Engineering, lstanciu@purdue.edu
Amanda Deering, Department of Food Science, adeering@purdue.edu

Short Bibliography

1.De Kievit, T. R., & Iglewski, B. H. (2000). Bacterial quorum sensing in pathogenic relationships. Infection and Immunity, 68(9), 4839–4849;
2. Qin, D., Xia, Y., & Whitesides, G. M. (2010). Soft lithography for micro- and nanoscale patterning. Nature Protocols.
3. Abate, A. R., Lee, D., Do, T., Holtze, C., & Weitz, D. A. (2008). Glass coating for PDMS microfluidic channels by sol-gel methods. Lab on a Chip, 8(4), 516–518. 4 Utech, S., Prodanovic, R., Mao, A. S., Ostafe, R., Mooney, D. J., & Weitz, D. A. (2015). Microfluidic generation of monodisperse, structurally homogeneous alginate microgels for cell encapsulation and 3D cell culture. Advanced Healthcare Materials, 4(11), 1628.
5. Haupt, K., Linares, A. V., Bompart, M., & Bui, B. T. S. (2012). Molecularly imprinted polymers. Topics in Current Chemistry, 325, 1–28.