Craig A Aspinwall
Professor, BIO5 Institute
Professor, Biomedical Engineering
Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry-Sci
Primary Department
(520) 621-6338
Research Interest
Craig A. Aspinwall, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Arizona. Dr. Aspinwall’s research is focused on the development of novel technology that facilitates the investigation of the molecular underpinnings of disease states. His work encompasses a broad range of scientific disciplines and allows complex biochemical problems to be studied with an increasing level of molecular detail. Dr. Aspinwall has published over 40 original research papers and maintains active collaborations with several international investigators. His research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Arizona Biomedical Research Corporation, and other organizations. He is actively involved in mentoring and education of students and young scientists.


Otero-González, L., Field, J. A., Calderon, I. A., Aspinwall, C. A., Shadman, F., Zeng, C., & Sierra-Alvarez, R. (2015). Fate of fluorescent core-shell silica nanoparticles during simulated secondary wastewater treatment. Water research, 77, 170-8.

Increasing use of silica nanoparticles (SiO2 NPs) in consumer products and industrial processes leads to SiO2 NP discharge into wastewater. Thus, there is a need to understand the fate of SiO2 NPs during wastewater treatment. However, the detection of SiO2 NPs in environmental systems is hindered by the elevated background levels of natural silicon. In this work, laboratory-synthesized fluorescent core-shell SiO2 NPs were used to study the fate of these NPs during secondary wastewater treatment. Fluorescent measurements provided an easy and fast method for SiO2 NP tracking. A laboratory-scale activated sludge system consisting of an aeration tank and a settler was fed with synthetic wastewater containing ca. 7.5 mg L(-1) of fluorescent SiO2 NPs for 30 days. SiO2 NPs were effectively removed from the wastewater (>96%) during the first 6 days, however the concentration of SiO2 NPs in the effluent gradually increased afterwards and the NP discharge was as high as 65% of the input after 30 days of NP dosing. The poor removal of the SiO2 NPs was related to the high colloidal stability of the NPs in the wastewater and their limited propensity to biosorption. Although some degree of NP adsorption on the biomass was observed using fluorescence microscopy, the affinity of SiO2 NPs for the activated sludge was not enough for a sustained and effective removal of the SiO2 NPs from the wastewater.

Aspinwall, C., Hapuarachchi, S., & Aspinwall, C. A. (2007). Design, characterization, and utilization of a fast fluorescence derivatization reaction utilizing o-phthaldialdehyde coupled with fluorescent thiols. Electrophoresis, 28(7).

We have developed a chemical derivatization scheme for primary amines that couples the fast kinetic properties of o-phthaldialdehyde (OPA) with the photophysical properties of visible, high quantum yield, fluorescent dyes. In this reaction, OPA is used as a cross-linking reagent in the labeling reaction of primary amines in the presence of a fluorescent thiol, 5-((2-(and-3)-S-(acetylmercapto)succinoyl)amino)fluorescein (SAMSA fluorescein), thereby incorporating fluorescein (epsilon = 78 000 M(-1), quantum yield of 0.98) into the isoindole product. Detection is based on excitation and emission of the incorporated fluorescein using the 488 nm laser line of an Ar(+) laser rather than the UV-excited isoindole, thereby eliminating the UV light sources for detection. Using this method, we have quantitatively labeled biologically important primary amines in less than 10 s. Detection limits for analysis of glutamate, glycine, GABA, and taurine were less than 2 nM. We present the characterization of OPA/SAMSA-F reaction and the potential utility of the derivatization reaction for dynamic chemical monitoring of biologically relevant analytes using CE.

Aspinwall, C., Baker, C. A., Bright, L. K., & Aspinwall, C. A. (2013). Photolithographic fabrication of microapertures with well-defined, three-dimensional geometries for suspended lipid membrane studies. Analytical chemistry, 85(19).

Robust and high-density biosensors incorporating suspended lipid membranes require microfabricated apertures that can be readily integrated into complex analysis systems. Apertures with well-defined, three-dimensional geometries enable the formation of suspended lipid membranes and facilitate reduced aperture size compared to vertical-walled apertures. Unfortunately, existing methods of producing apertures with well-defined, three-dimensional geometries are based on complex and expensive fabrication procedures, some of which yield apertures in excessively fragile thin-film materials. Here, we describe a microfabrication method utilizing incline and rotate lithography that achieves sloped-wall microapertures in SU-8 polymer substrates with precision control of the aperture diameter, substrate thickness, and wall angle. This approach is simple, is of low cost, and is readily scaled up to allow highly reproducible parallel fabrication. The effect of the incident angle of UV exposure and the size of photomask features on the aperture geometry were investigated, yielding aperture diameters as small as 7 μm and aperture wall angles ranging from 8° to 36° measured from the normal axis. Black lipid membranes were suspended across the apertures and showed normalized conductance values of 0.02-0.05 pS μm(-2) and breakdown voltages of 400-600 mV. The functionality of the resulting sloped-wall microapertures was validated via measurement of reconstituted α-hemolysin activity and the voltage-gated channel activity of alamethicin.

Aspinwall, C., Janczak, C. M., & Aspinwall, C. A. (2012). Composite nanoparticles: the best of two worlds. Analytical and bioanalytical chemistry, 402(1).

Nanomaterials have rapidly moved into the mainstream for chemical and biological analysis. Nanoparticle probes enhance signal intensity, increase the chemical and physical stability of the probe, and facilitate surface modification for specific targeting. Unfortunately, common problems are encountered with many nanoparticle probes, e.g., poor solubility, poor biocompatibility, and leakage of encapsulated components, that severely restrict the application of probes to ex vivo samples under carefully controlled conditions. A wide range of recently developed multifunctional nanomaterials are poised to make significant contributions to molecular analysis of biological systems. Composite nanoparticle geometries, including composites, hybrids, and core-shell nanoparticles prepared using two or more materials, e.g., silica/inorganic, silica/polymer, or polymer/inorganic combinations, offer improved solubility, easier functionalization, and decreased toxicity compared with the related single-component materials. Furthermore, composite nanomaterials present substantial signal amplification, and improved multiplexing for higher-sensitivity and higher-resolution measurements. Further development and integration of composite nanomaterials into the quantitative sciences will play a key role in the future of functional probes for imaging, quantitative analysis, and biological manipulation.

Berglund, E., Berglund, D., Akcakaya, P., Ghaderi, M., Daré, E., Berggren, P., Köhler, M., Aspinwall, C. A., Lui, W., Zedenius, J., Larsson, C., & Bränström, R. (2013). Evidence for Ca2+-regulated ATP release in gastrointestinal stromal tumors. Experimental Cell Research, 319(8), 1229-1238.

PMID: 23499741;PMCID: PMC3628080;Abstract:

Gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) are thought to originate from the electrically active pacemaker cells of the gastrointestinal tract. Despite the presence of synaptic-like vesicles and proteins involved in cell secretion it remains unclear whether GIST cells possess regulated release mechanisms. The GIST tumor cell line GIST882 was used as a model cell system, and stimulus-release coupling was investigated by confocal microscopy of cytoplasmic free Ca2+ concentration ([Ca2+]i), flow cytometry, and luminometric measurements of extracellular ATP. We demonstrate that GIST cells have an intact intracellular Ca2+-signaling pathway that regulates ATP release. Cell viability and cell membrane integrity was preserved, excluding ATP leakage due to cell death and suggesting active ATP release. The stimulus-secretion signal transduction is at least partly dependent on Ca2+ influx since exclusion of extracellular Ca2+ diminishes the ATP release. We conclude that measurements of ATP release in GISTs may be a useful tool for dissecting the signal transduction pathway, mapping exocytotic components, and possibly for the development and evaluation of drugs. Additionally, release of ATP from GISTs may have importance for tumor tissue homeostasis and immune surveillance escape. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.