Development of Novel Sensing Materials and Chemical Sensors with Broad Medical Applications

Suzuki & Citterio Laboratory is part of the Department of Applied Chemistry in the Faculty of Science and Technology at Keio University and focused on research into developing new sensing materials and chemical sensors.

Not limiting themselves to analytical chemistry, which is their field of specialization, they also refer to other disciplines including organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and biochemistry, merging these technologies to develop highly practical chemical sensors.

"Sensing materials can have a wide range of sizes from as tiny as the molecular level and the recently popular nanoparticles, to slightly larger polymers, and aggregated microparticular compounds. More specifically, they can be biomolecules including proteins and DNA, gold and other metallic nanoparticles, synthesized small molecules, or natural products, among others. We make sensing materials covering all of these, and use them for analytical chemical purposes by application to chemical sensors. Chemical sensors differ from physical sensors in that they can measure Chemical substances. Physical sensors measure temperature, or the amount of light, directly determining physical parameters. On the other hand, chemical sensors enable the direct measurement of chemical substances. In this context, the development of new sensing materials allows for the realization of corresponding new chemical sensors."

Suzuki & Citterio Laboratory designs and synthesizes functional dyes that change color or produce light by reacting with a specific substance. It develops nano-sized functional materials such as particles and polymers, and develops sensing technology that utilizes fluorescent and luminescent molecules, providing imaging inside the body which had been impossible until now. Besides development of these sensing materials, we are also researching sensing devices made out of paper.

"Microchips and microanalytical devices have been the focus of much attention, but until now, they were all made of regular polymers or glass. With this technology, an extremely, unbelievably small laboratory can be created on a tiny chip, which is called a "Lab on chip". We call it a "laboratory" in English but in fact, it is an exceptionally small analytical device. One issue with devices is that they usually require lots of external equipment. For example, things like vacuum pumps, and microscopes are needed to detect signals. We wanted to make a slightly different microfluidic device. One that doesn't require any external equipment or an electrical source. That's why for one, we are using paper as the substrate material. Technology to print reagents has been around for some time, but what we developed was a method to print also microfluidic structures on a device by using inkjet printers. In view of future mass production, a single printing system could for example be used, to create a complete device based on a paper substrate."

Beyond the myriad of possibilities presented by sensing technology research, the Suzuki Citterio laboratory sees a broad range of medical applications ranging from home health care to clinical laboratory tests and more. Development of systems that will enrich society motivates the people in this laboratory to research and create further sensing technology.

"Our research ranges from basic research to molecule design or nanoparticle design. We evaluate basic characteristics and later apply these in actual animal experiments, but since the ultimate goal is to apply these in humans, the products must be thoroughly refined so that they can actually be used in people."

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