Sheniqua Brown, Ph.D.


Chemical, Biochemical and Environmental Engineering

Undergraduate Institution: Howard University
Research Advisor: Govind Rao, Ph.D. and Leah Talosa, Ph.D.

Description of Research

During prenatal development, a baby’s nutrient supply, through their mother, is a key factor in the regulation of fetal growth.  During birth when the umbilical cord is cut, transplacental transfer of glucose is interrupted causing an issue in the normal development and survival of the neonates mainly because glucose is their main energy source.   Likewise, when the metabolic balance of a newborn is disrupted by stressors such as diabetes, premature birth, temperatures and infections the likelihood of developing dangerous glucose levels increases.  Current technologies that aid in monitoring glucose levels in neonates are useful; however, all require painful, invasive blood draws.  Since these blood draws can increase the risk of infection, there is a need for a non-invasive technology that allows glucose levels to be analyzed in neonates while still maintaining the accuracy of the medical field’s established method.

As graduate students in UMBC’s Center for Advanced Sensor Technology (CAST) and under the advisement of Dr. Govind Rao and Dr. Leah Tolosa, we focus on the development of biological sensors that have applications in the health field.  My specific research involves developing a non-invasive glucose sensor that uses fluorescently labeled glucose binding protein.  The goal is to develop a commercial sensor that can monitor and measure transdermal glucose levels in individuals suffering from diabetes, as well as in neonates. The initial steps include the production and analysis of glucose binding protein (GBP) which involves cell culture and fermentation of modified E. coli, extracting GBP from cells, fluorescently labeling protein and purifying GBP using size exclusion and ion exchange columns.  Other techniques involved in my research include SDS-Page, Bradford Protein Assay and the use of a fluorescence spectrometer. Additional research being performed includes studying the bioactivity of GBP in various pH and ionic strength buffer conditions to understand the properties of our sensor, GBP.