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ASU undergraduate researcher ‘eyes’ diabetes management

While the more than

100 undergraduate students at ASU’s Biodesign Institute are studying and training to become the scientists of tomorrow, that doesn’t stop them from pursuing ground-breaking research today.

Daniel Bishop
For senior Daniel Bishop, ASU’s vast research landscape has served as a catalyst for him to help develop new sensor technologies that may one day allow individuals with diabetes to noninvasively monitor their glucose levels. The innovative project samples the tears produced in the eye to measure sugar levels, and correlates these values with those found in the blood. “Diabetes is an area of research where biosensors have already had a major impact, and with the prevalence of diabetes, it definitely seems like an area that you can work on and have direct and major impact,” said Bishop. “The technology our research team is developing could become a very, very powerful tool if diabetics didn’t have to stick their fingers every day, especially some who have to rely on 6 to 8 blood glucose measurements per day,” said Bishop. “There really is no product like this currently on the market.” A native Arizonan who grew up in Phoenix, Bishop chose to go to a large school like ASU both for the breadth of expertise of its research faculty and exposure to state-of-the-art research facilities like the Biodesign Institute. During his freshmen year at the Barrett’s Honors College, Bishop and his roommate and lifelong friend Eric Alonas asked Barrett dean Mark Jacobs for advice on pursuing undergraduate lab research. Jacobs directed them to Dr. Jeff La Belle at the Biodesign Institute’s Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors. The inseparable pair have been laboratory benchmates ever since, and Bishop quickly became enthralled with the intellectual rigors of research and how it reinforced his coursework. “What really excited me as a freshman was that I would go into the lab working on electrochemical sensors, and at the same time, I’m attending my classes on subjects like the physics of electricity,” said Bishop. So, I’m sitting in my classes and everyone around me is wondering ‘why am I taking this? This has nothing to do with anything,’ and I get to leave my classroom and go into the lab and it is exactly what we are learning about.” Bishop’s main focus has been on the development of a disposable technology for the tear-based sensor, as well as some initial work for the sampling system. He has worked alongside a team of 6-8 people, developing the independence to bring his own ideas to help improve the technology. “Daniel is one of those rare students who can delve deeply into literature, extract the significant information being presented, find a novel solution and apply it to his problem ,” said La Belle. “Daniel took a look at the state-of-the-art and literature in this field, saw a solution in his head, and approached this problem with a unique and creative concept.” “The idea Dr. La Belle and I had was to look at the concept of hydrogel films to sample tears,” said Bishop. “These are polymers that can absorb a significant amount of sample tears and fluid in them—the idea is that you could just touch your eye.” Like using a tissue paper to wipe away tears, the hydrogel on the sensor soaks up the tear sample, and is then passed into a well also on the sensor. These tiny, adhesive wells contain an enzyme called glucose dehydrogenase, which reacts with the glucose in the sample and produces a chemical that is detected by electrochemistry, so the amount of electricity coming out of the solution correlates to the glucose concentration. The team has been hard at work developing a

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microprocessor to drive the sensor measurements, and well as other aspects to improve the sampling. “It’s truly amazing to see such enthusiasm from this team. In less than 10 months, the team went from concept to prototype testing,” said La Belle. “Daniel is mentoring other students in system testing, electronics fabrication, and manufacturing the product. It’s been a joy to behold! We’re already talking with our colleagues at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale to examine the feasibility of clinical studies.” Bishop has equally excelled in the classroom—maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA—and the research lab. He was the recipient of an ASU Presidential Scholarship and received a 2008 Outstanding Researcher Award from the Biodesign Institute’s Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors as well as a Fulton School of Engineering Celebration of Excellence Award. Last fall, he successfully defended honors thesis entitled “Applications of electrochemical biosensors in personal healthcare.” Through a Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative, he has received more than $11,000 in competitive support for independent research from the fall of 2006 to fall 2008. Now, Bishop is team leader in Skysong’s Entrepreneur Advantage Program, which provides seed funding support for him to form a venture for prototyping the disposable tear glucose sensor. Currently, Bishop hopes to publish the results of the research project in a leading diabetes research journal. Bishop’s ultimate goal is to continue research while also pursuing a medical degree. The seeds of this career path were formed by years of volunteer work at MacClovio Rojas, Mexico, where he has helped provide assistance to medical clinics and building infrastructure for local communities for the past decade. Next, Bishop will pursue a combined M.D./Ph.D. program at the University of Pittsburgh/Carnegie Mellon University, where he was recently accepted. “The reason I’m aiming for an M.D./Ph.D. down the line is that I really want to keep my research applied and translational. That’s my main motivation, and why I’ve enjoyed working with diabetes research and biosensors in general. I feel like it’s a nice combination of basic research and real life problems, real life targets.” For Bishop, his experiences at ASU were instrumental in broadening his aspirations. “Originally, I wasn’t thinking about going into research as a profession, I just wanted to become a doctor, but it was working here that really shifted my priorities and interests,” said Bishop. “I feel like coming from ASU and performing research at the Biodesign Institute has given me the unique perspective of not just thinking ‘what am I curious about?’ but where you’re also thinking about a big societal problem that this curiosity can drive a solution for.” Source:

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