The Iterative Design of Aptamer-Functionalized Membranes to Enable Detection, Sequestration, and Recovery of Small-Molecule Compounds Restricted; Files & ToC

Romero-Reyes, Misael A. (Summer 2021)

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Decontaminating our increasingly scarce sources of fresh water has become of paramount importance. Of the available treatment purifications methods, membrane filtration is advantageous due to its simplistic design, affordability, and applicability. However, one of the biggest drawbacks is its inability to retain small molecules of interest (< 1 μm). This matter becomes more pressing because contaminants arise from multiple industries, human pollution, and natural bacteria. This thesis is focused on exploring the preparation of a filtration system capable of removing small molecules from water by leveraging the use of aptamers. Aptamers are single-stranded DNA that have strong affinity and specificity to small molecules. When we couple aptamers to current filtration systems, we can pave the way to remove small-molecule and macromolecular contaminants, toxins, and microorganisms from water in a user-friendly manner. In Chapter 1, I provide a literature review to introduce the concepts of water scarcity, current technologies and methods for water decontamination, the use of membranes in decontamination, and utilization of aptamers in environmental applications. In Chapter 2, I create the first aptamer- functionalized membrane and demonstrate its ability to remove bisphenol A. In Chapter 3, I explore this system further by optimizing each component of the preparation process and therefore the increase of aptamer attachment. We also demonstrate the depletion of more than one small molecule synergistically. In Chapter 4, I talk about applications of the membrane system developed that go further than removal of small-molecule contaminants from water sources. I evaluate the creation of a membrane that can self-regenerate by not only removing but also degrading a small-molecule contaminant with the aid of an enzyme. In Chapter 5, I reflect about my time in graduate school, where apart from research, I got intensive training on teaching, science communication, and outreach. Finally, in Chapter 6, I discuss the practical applications and consider future directions of the system developed. Together, this research sheds a light in the development efficient methods that can sequester and remove micro- and macro- molecules from our water supplies, which due to the imminence of fresh-water scarcity, it has become critical to study. 

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