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Graduation: Faculties of Business and Management Sciences Official start: December 10 @ 9:00 am. Duration: 2h 30m

Monday, 10 December 2018

Replicating the success of pregnancy test

ANTICIPATION: Takunda Gwanzura graduates tonight. ANTICIPATION: Takunda Gwanzura graduates tonight.

Takunda Gwanzura was curious whether he could replicate his success in creating an organic solar cell for his BTech in Chemistry.

So, for his Masters of Applied Science in Chemistry he went into a completely different direction, creating a biosensor for detecting kidney disease.

He hit upon the idea of creating a test similar to a home pregnancy test, using urine or saliva. “The whole point of a biosensor is to make something that is cheap, efficient and reliable.

The pregnancy test has been one of the most successful biosensors to ever enter the market because it fulfils those three qualities.”

“I wanted to prove to myself that I have the ability to replicate novelty and innovation, that it didn’t just happen serendipitously,” said Gwanzura.

The 25-year-old started working towards his Masters in Chemistry in 2016 and now graduates summa cum laude with the thesis “Fabrication of a gold nano-rod metal-organic framework biosensor for kidney disease”.

When he was coming up with the project focus he pointed out to his supervisor Prof Mangaka Matoetoe that he wanted to do something useful that could aid society. This was as an Ebola outbreak in West Africa was dominating headlines and he read about a scientist creating a biosensor for screening for the disease.

Around this time he got the news that his own brother was experiencing kidney problems and his research showed him that many people realise they have a problem only when they are already in need of dialysis and/or a new kidney.

“If it was just detected earlier it could have been solved. So I was thinking, as a scientist that is my role, to make sure people don’t die and live longer lives,” said Gwanzura.

A person with a kidney disease will experience a dip in the naturally occurring protein Epidermal Growth Factor, which makes it a good biomarker to target. So what Gwanzura needed was a way to sense a decrease in the protein. “People normally have between 60 and 80 nanomolar concentration but when anything starts happening to the kidney the concentration starts to decrease.People at stage five who need dialysis have as low as 2nm concentration.”

His supervisor suggested using nanoparticles and trial and error led him to settling on gold nanoparticles which change colours at certain concentrations.

“Our signal is a colour change so we don’t bother people with figures of concentration.”

The gold nano-particles are on an electrode which is placed inside a metal-organic framework and Gwanzura has created a working prototype.

Next, they would have to do clinical trials to test the efficacy of the Chronic Kidney Disease Biosensor. “Yes, I have to work on the name … My vision when I started was to synergise with CPUT expertise so maybe I need to speak to some of the marketing people.”

Written by Theresa Smith

Email: smitht@cput.ac.za

Provides coverage for the Applied Sciences and Engineering Faculties and the Wellington Campus.