2019 BIST Ignite Project: MAKI

Real-time sensing of diagnostically-relevant biomarkers in urine for the monitoring of acute kidney injury

The MAKI project received a 2019 BIST Ignite Grant at the annual BIST Ignite Awards Ceremony held in March 2020.

BIST Director Gabby Silberman presents the 2019 BIST Ignite Award to MAKI

Project overview

Acute renal failure (ARI) is a common complication in major surgeries, and until recently its detection was based on a single biomarker, an increase in creatinine in body fluids, which requires a slow analytical process to be detected. Recently, the neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin protein (NGAL) has been identified as a much earlier biomarker in the ARI. The MAKI project, led by Dr. Gemma Aragay, from ICIQ, and Dr. Ruslan Alvarez, from ICN2 —who has taken over from Dr. Claudio Parolo (ICN2), co-leader in the first phase— is developing a new method to simultaneously detect both biomarkers in urine samples, integrating in a single device a detector that reacts to the presence of creatinine producing fluorescence and an aptamer capable of detecting NGAL. The final goal of the project is to produce a portable sensor attached to a urinary catheter that allows creatinine and NGAL levels to be monitored with minimal effort by healthcare staff.

Multidisciplinarity within MAKI

The MAKI project is a great example of how multidisciplinary research within the BIST community can provide a valuable service for the public. The success of MAKI requires the combination of different areas of expertise, ranging from chemistry, physics, and biotechnology to clinic and diagnostic work. Looking in more detail at the different contributions, the Ballester group (ICIQ) will provide decades of experience in the synthesis of organic receptors for small polar biologically relevant molecules and the understanding of self-assembly processes (non-covalent chemistry). The group will lead the synthesis of the creatinine fluorescent receptor, its proper functionalization and the accurate kinetic and thermodynamic characterization of the binding processes in solution. The Merkoçi group (ICN2) has been at the forefront of the biosensing field for the last fifteen years working on a variety of sensor architectures (optical, electrochemical) for different targets (protein, nucleic acids, small molecules) and for different applications (clinical, environmental and safety). They will oversee the aptamer engineering, surface modification, and development of the smartphone reader.

Project members

Gemma Aragay

ICIQ Postdoctoral Researcher & Group Scientific Coordinator
Project Leader

Ruslan Alvarez

ICN2 Postdoctoral Researcher
Project Leader

Arben Merkoçi

ICN2 Group Leader
& ICREA Professor

Pablo Ballester

ICIQ Group Leader & ICREA Professor

Andrea Idili

ICN2 Postdoctoral Researcher & PROBIST Fellow

Felipe Andrés Sierra

ICIQ PhD Student

Lorenzo Azzalini

Mount Sinai Hospital (New York) Medical Doctor

BIST centres

Institutional Members of the Board of Trustees