Martí-Franquès COFUND Fellowship Programme


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Engineering and Architecture

Supervisor name and surname:

Alex Fragoso

Supervisor email:

Supervisor short biography

PhD programme:

Nanoscience, Materials and Chemical Engineering

Title of the research project:

Towards extraction and purification protocols for marine toxins based on cyclodextrin-derived nanomaterials

Description of the research project:

Project overview

Ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP) is the most commonly reported natural marine toxin-related illness in the world contracted by humans by consuming fish that contains ciguatoxins (CTXs). Recently, poisoning cases have been reported in Spain (Canary Islands) and Portugal (Madeira) and microalgae of the toxic genera Gambierdiscus and/or Fukuyoa have been detected in several places of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean basin.
Cyclodextrins (CDs) are cyclic oligosaccharides featuring a truncated cone structure with a central hydrophobic cavity (Szejtli, 1998). Among the several types of derivatives and materials prepared with these molecules, CD nanosponges (CDNSs) have recently attracted great interest and take their name by their property of forming a sponge-like structure of nanometric dimensions when lyophilized with intriguing properties of swelling, absorption and release of different types of molecules (Sherje et al., 2017). Little is known about the interaction of marine toxins with CDs, the only report so far being limited to the separation of domoic acid isomers by capillary electrophoresis using CDs as additives in the mobile phase (Zhao et al., 1997). Since CTXs are polycyclic ethers having a worm-like structure of 2-3 nm long and 0.5 nm width, their shape and their essentially hydrophobic character makes them perfect guests for CD complexation and thus for the development of extraction/purification/pre-concentration protocols based on CD-derived materials.

Objectives and tasks

The project aims at the preparation of CD-based polymers by cross-linking native CDs to obtain insoluble sponge-like materials. Alternatively, CDs will be attached to the side chains of activated polymers. In all cases, efforts will be made to use these materials as coatings in magnetic nano/microparticles. The materials will be characterized by common spectroscopic and microscopy techniques.
The CTXs extraction capacity of these materials will be assessed and methods to quantify the extracted toxins will be developed. Further objectives and outcomes will be discussed with the candidate before the project starts also considering his/her own background.

The candidate

Students with a MSc in chemistry or related disciplines are preferred. Preference will be given to students with some research experience in organic and/or supramolecular chemistry. Above all, enthusiastic students with a strong desire to learn new things will be given preference.
A good command in oral and written English is mandatory.

- Sherje et al. (2017) Carbohydr. Polym., 173, 37.
- Szejtli (1998) Chem Rev. 98, 1743.
- Zhao et al. (1997) Electrophoresis, 8, 268-76.

Gross anual salary:

26443.80 €


Full time

Working hours:

37.5 hours a week

Expected start date:

European union This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 713679