Scienion AG has announced milestone advancements in the EU MicroAqua research project, which is dedicated to developing a universal microarray for the evaluation of fresh-water quality.
The prototype of the unique chip enables the simultaneous detection of almost 40 waterborne microbial pathogens and 10 diatom algal species serving as bioindicators of water quality.
The DNA microarray is presently subject to optimization and evaluation using water sample from various national monitoring sites in Europe. Scienion intends to market the final products.
µAQUA is the acronym for the EU research project “Universal microarrays for the evaluation of fresh-water quality based on detection of pathogens and their toxins” which has been funded by the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission since 2011.
Its overall goal is to develop efficient, sensitive, robust, rapid and inexpensive aquatic biosensors to monitor various aspects of water quality as part of the strategy for control and prevention of diseases caused by waterborne pathogens and algal toxins.
μAQUA aims to design and develop a universal microarray chip for the high-throughput detection in water of known and emerging pathogens (bacteria, viruses, protozoa and cyanobacteria) and to assess the water quality by monitoring the presence of select bioindicators (diatoms).
The present chip prototype allows for simultaneous testing of almost 50 organisms. These organisms include pathogens that are considered to be potentially most dangerous for human health and represent the standard pathogens whose presence is tested by all national water authorities in Europe.
Additionally the chip can detect several diatom algal species that are known to react rapidly and sensitively to water quality changes and are used universally as biomarkers for water quality assessment.
12 partners from eight countries are committed to the project, with Claudio Gualerzi from the University of Camerino, Italy, being the coordinator of this ambitious enterprise.
The original EU application was significantly driven by Linda Medlin from the Observatoire Océanologique de Banyuls Sur Mer, a pioneer in using PCR for phylogenetic analysis.
Scienion plays a key role in this project. The company has been developing the actual microarrays and provides the infrastructure and expertise for the production of the arrays and their analysis.
Whereas capture probe design was performed by other partners, Scienion has been involved in their adaption and microarray specificity testing.
The DNA microchip contains an array of oligonucleotides immobilized on Scienion’s sciCHIP EPOXY glass slides. At Scienion’s site in Berlin, the complete workflow of the microarrays analysis has been performed and includes fluorescent labeling of the target nucleic acids, hybridization to the DNA chip, detection and data evaluation.
Scienion has also headed the development work of suitable buffer systems for sample printing, optimization of DNA concentrations and immobilization conditions.
At present, the universal microchip is subject to validation using a range of environmental samples collected throughout Europe by various partners.
For more information see http://microaqua.eu/.
Dr. Holger Eickhoff, CEO of Scienion AG, states: “Surface water is a vitally important resource and we need reliable and affordable tools to monitor its quality, especially for the detection of potential health hazards caused by waterborne pathogens. However, traditional methods currently used for monitoring water quality and to detect potential biohazards present several limitations: 1. highly qualified workforce skilled in microbiology, virology and taxonomy is required. 2. current methods are not able to yield rapid information and 3. there are no tools that allow an integrated monitoring and evaluation of all different biological parameters. We are very pleased to contribute to the success of the MicroAqua project, which utilizes modern microarray technology in an interdisciplinary approach to overcome these limitations. Our universal microarray chip can greatly enhance speed and accuracy by which species and biomolecules can be identified. Ultimately, the results of this project will allow not only the early detection of health hazards. In addition they will also contribute to evaluate the effectiveness of possible measures taken, and to the formulation of knowledge-based proposals for actions capable of mitigating health threats posed by waterborne pathogenic and toxigenic organisms. Our goal is the production of commercial universal chips for the detection of target organisms and toxins to be adopted by European water authorities and by the water production industry.”