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Nano-Safety Research Group

Specialists in the assessment of nanomaterial toxicity to human health and the environment

Florian Mallevre


NanoBioSense - Developing bacterial based biosensors for nanomaterial ecotoxicity testing.

Florian aims to develop and test bacterial biosensors for nanomaterial ecotoxicity testing in simple and complex matrices based onswitch-on and switch-off relevant bioreporters grown as planktonic and/or biofilm cultures coupled with current biosensor technologies.

The general purpose of toxicity testing is to establish the potential impact of chemicals on humans and other species. The information gained can then be used to manage the use, treatment and release of chemicals, as well as the disposal of products and management of human activities. The use of microorganisms is essential in this context for two main reasons. Firstly, they provide information on overall hazard effects without resorting to vertebrate testing and, secondly, they themselves are important constituents of ecosystems providing service such as nutrient cycling and material degradation.

Widely used in industrial sectors and commercial products over the last decades, nanomaterials have raised concerns regarding their potential release and environmental impact. However, the nanoecotoxicological research is emerging and information on nanoparticle bioavailability and ecotoxicity is still limited.Bacteria have been extensively used as bioreporters for drug and chemical ecotoxicity testing, usually via the indirect measurement of emitted fluorescence or luminescence from genetically modified microorganisms. Although widely described as easy to handle, rapid to growth, cheap, versatile (e.g. lot of species and genetically modifiable), bacteria have been scarcely integrated in biosensors so far. However, biosensors (i.e.'analytical devicesincorporating a bioreporter intimately integrated with a physicochemical transducer') could offer sensitive, multiplex, rapid or real time, and even portable solutions to nanoecotoxicology and therefore be great sources of related information.

Consequently, Florian will address the applicability and suitability of bacterial biosensors for nanomaterial ecotoxicity testing. These biosensors could then be used as early warning toxicity tests for simple and complex matrices (i.e. those potentially containing multiple toxicants) such as those found in domestic and industrial waste waters.



  • Prof. Teresa F. Fernandes (School of Life Sciences, Heriot-Watt University)
  • Dr Thomas J. Aspray (School of Life Sciences, Heriot-Watt University)

Project funder

Heriot-Watt University, James Watt PhD Studentship (2013-2016)


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