True colors are shining through: Flow cytometric biosensors as a new concept in forensic toxicology

01 January 2019 → Ongoing
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Social sciences
    • Criminology
Project description

Over the last decade, new psychoactive substances (NPS) have been flooding the drug market. The
continuously changing chemistry of these substances -aiming at generating substances with
increased potency and at avoiding legislation- poses a major challenge for current detection
techniques, which are mainly based on the chemical structure of the NPS. Immunoassays only
recognize a very limited set of compounds, while mass spectrometry based assays either require
knowledge about the structure or -in case of untargeted analysis- sufficiently high analyte
This project aims at developing a multiplex flow cytometry based screening assay for three classes
of drugs: cannabinoids, opioids and psychedelics. Stable cell-based systems will be used, in which
activation of GPCRs (targets of the drug classes) will be monitored via bimolecular fluorescence
complementation (BiFC), Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET), or the combination of both. This
multiplex aims at being competitive with other screening strategies when considering time,
throughput and cost and will not have the above-mentioned constraints linked to existing strategies.
As with any other screening assay, a positive result should still be analytically confirmed. Application
of activity-based screening offers the potential of completely unbiased screening, thereby strongly
reducing the number of samples that needs to be taken to confirmatory bioanalysis and may help to
orient the bioanalytical workflow.