A Molecularly Imprinted Polymer-based Dye Displacement Assay for the Rapid Visual Detection of Amphetamine in Urine

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The rapid sensing of drug compounds has traditionally relied on antibodies, enzymes and electrochemical reactions. These technologies can frequently produce false positives/negatives and require specific conditions to operate. Akin to antibodies, molecularly imprinted polymers (MIPs) are a more robust synthetic alternative with the ability to bind a target molecule with an affinity comparable to that of its natural counterparts. With this in mind, the research presented in this article introduces a facile MIP-based dye displacement assay for the detection of (+/-) amphetamine in urine. The selective nature of MIPs coupled with a displaceable dye enables the resulting low-cost assay to rapidly produce a clear visual confirmation of a target's presence, offering huge commercial potential. The following manuscript characterizes the proposed assay, drawing attention to various facets of the sensor design and optimization. To this end, synthesis of a MIP tailored towards amphetamine is described, scrutinizing the composition and selectivity (ibuprofen, naproxen, 2-methoxphenidine, quetiapine) of the reported synthetic receptor. Dye selection for the development of the displacement assay follows, proceeded by optimization of the displacement process by investigating the time taken and the amount of MIP powder required for optimum displacement. An optimized dose-response curve is then presented, introducing (+/-) amphetamine hydrochloride (0.01-1 mg mL(-1)) to the engineered sensor and determining the limit of detection (LoD). The research culminates in the assay being used for the analysis of spiked urine samples (amphetamine, ibuprofen, naproxen, 2-methoxphenidine, quetiapine, bupropion, pheniramine, bromopheniramine) and evaluating its potential as a low-cost, rapid and selective method of analysis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5222
Number of pages16
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • molecularly imprinted polymers
  • colorimetry
  • displacement assay
  • amphetamine

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