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Mariacristina Turino

PhD Programme

Nanoscience, Materials and Chemical Engineering

Research group

ZEPTONIC - Grupo de Plasmonica y Ultradetección


Ramón Álvarez-Puebla & Luca Guerrini


Mariacristina Turino completed her degree in Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Technology at University of Bologna. Her thesis research was about “Conjugates of Galantamine and memantine for the study of Alzheimer's disease: development of a new synthetic strategy”, in which she optimized the synthetic protocol of galantamine-memantine hybrid (PATENT N°WO2013160728A1) capable of modulating simultaneously two therapeutic targets (AChE and receptor NMDA) involved in Alzheimer's. After her degree, on September 2016, she started to work for Industria Chimica Fine, as a process technician; and she subsequently worked for U-Series as analytical chemist in Research and Development department. During this time, she optimized critical points of analytical methods for determination of radionuclides (plutonium, americium and uranium) in biological samples focusing the research on actinides purification step through ion exchange chromatography and chelating resin. From April 2017 to July 2017, she realized an initial traineeship as a research assistant at Andalusian Centre of Nanomedicine and Biotechnology, where she worked in nanochemistry field more specifically.

Project: Surface-enhanced Raman scattering profiling of RNA from tumor educated platelets

The ultimate objective of this thesis is to develop state-of-the-art nanotechnologies that will provide new cancer diagnostic tools, based on the ultra-sensitive, multiplexed SERS detection of mRNA onco-signatures with extremely high sensitivity (i.e.; PCR-free methods) in blood-based liquid biopsies (LBs). In particular, we will target mRNA mutations that are routinely screened in the diagnosis and prognosis of colorectal cancer (the 4th leading cause of cancer death in the world). To this end, we will couple specifically designed hybrid plasmonic materials with selective mRNA receptors, displaying a high binding affinity and specificity for the target mRNAs. The coupling between the plasmonic nanostructures and the RNA receptors will occur via a covalently linked spacer, acting as a surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) transducer. The mRNA target/receptor recognition events will translate into measurable alterations of the unique SERS spectra associated with the molecular reorientation/deformation of the transducer. Identification/characterization of the spectral markers that are more sensitive to such structural reorganization will be performed via DFT calculations. This indirect SERS sensing strategy has already been successfully applied by our group using peptide-conjugate to detect oncoproteins in real blood samples (JACS 2016, 138, 14206; JACS 2013, 135, 10314). Implementation of the sensing strategy into a microfluidic device will further help to reduce the required amount of nucleic acids per measurement while enabling on-line monitoring of large volumes of the sample.