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Ratiometric sensors are multifaceted tools with applications across the field of synthetic biology. Because our systems are modular, they could be used to sense ratios of chemicals important to...


One of the prevalent causes of cancer are malfunctioning, mutated signaling pathways. Often, over-phosphorylation of receptors is the source of loss of control over a cell's processes, which often leads to cancer. For example, in a study done on lung cancer in 2009, the ratio of phosphorylated to un-phoshorylated EGFR in lung tissue from patients was found characteristic of the class of cancer the patient was diagnosed with (Wu et. al 2009). For example, the ratio of phosphorylated EGFR to un-phosphorylated EGFR was found to be greater than one in patients diagnosed with adenocarcinoma. Another study done by Xiong et. al stressed the inability to diagnose cancerous liver cells due to difficulty in detecting abnormalities in the expression of PDGF-a; any other ratio than a 1:1 leads to hepatic cancer. Clearly, ratios of growth factor to receptors can indicate the malignancy of tumors and predict when they are likely to metastasize. Our sensor could be used as a research tool to discover more important ratios and also as a method of targeting in-vivo drug delivery to those cells with tumor-like expression patterns.

Preterm Labor

Preterm labor is a leading cause of infant mortality in the US. Our sensor can be used to detect hormone or bacterial imbalance and alert the expectant mother or her doctor that she is likely to enter preterm labor, allowing a pre-emptive response that could save her child's life.

Metabolic Flux

Bacterial manufacturing has huge economic potential, but is often limited by the efficiency of biological pathways. Our sensor can be used to regulate enzyme production, inhibiting enzyme output in the absence of substrate and increasing output once substrate becomes abundant.