The Latest News and Events
24-25th November 2014:
Welsh Centre for Printing & Coating (WCPC) 10th Annual Technical Conference, Village Hotel, Swansea
Keynote speaker: Prof Jong-Min Kim, Head of the Nano Science & Technology Research group at Oxford University and former Senior Vice President at Samsung Electronics Corporate R&D Centre, Korea. Find out more
5-6th November 2014:
Innovate UK, London www.innovateukevent.com
12-15th November 2014:
Medica, Germany - Find us on the Welsh Pavilion Stand www.medica-tradefair.com
3rd December 2014:
Joint Problems: How Science can help people with osteoarthritis, Liberty Stadium, Swansea
4th December 2014:
UK Healthtech Conference, St David’s Hotel, Cardiff. Find us on Stand “M”. www.ukhealthtech.com
To be confirmed shortly
Researchers from Swansea and Cardiff Universities have been awarded a grant of more than £323k to develop a new, non-invasive, low-cost, and easy to use point of care device to diagnose Human Cytomegalovirus (HCMV).
HCMV, a member of the herpes family of viruses, can have serious health consequences for those with weak immune systems, and a “devastating impact” on pregnant women and their babies if infected.
The grant is a prestigious Product Development Award under the National Institute for Health Research Invention for Innovation (NIHR i4i) scheme to Dr Vincent Teng of Swansea University’s College of Engineering, Dr Richard Stanton of the Institute of Infection and Immunity at Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, and the Wales Specialist Virology Centre. It will support a three-year project which began this month (October 1, 2014).
HCMV is spread through bodily fluids including saliva, blood, breast milk, semen and urine and the majority of adults will be infected by HCMV at some point in their life.
Once infected, the virus is carried within the person for life, but as long as people remain healthy, they rarely show any symptoms.
“However, HCMV can result in serious health complications and even death for those with weak immune systems, such as patients with HIV and organ transplant recipients,” said Dr Teng, an Associate Professor and Head of the Nanoelectronics Research Group and a member of the Centre for NanoHealth at Swansea University, who will lead the work.
“It is a particular problem if caught by a woman during pregnancy, a problem affecting about one to two babies in every 200 in the UK. This makes it more common than Down’s Syndrome.
“HCMV can cause permanent disabilities such as mental retardation, blindness, deafness, or even fatality, to infected babies. Many are not diagnosed at birth because they do not show symptoms, however they can develop hearing or vision loss, or developmental problems, months or years later.
“Early detection of HCMV is critical to allow intervention as soon as possible, in order to minimise the long-term impact of these problems.”
This project allows the research and development of a new, non-invasive, low-cost, easy to use point of care diagnostic device, which can directly detect HCMV either in urine or saliva.
“Such novel technology is ideal for large-scale screening programs,” added Dr Teng.
“For example it would become possible to screen all newborn babies for the virus, allowing targeted treatment even before symptoms are seen.
“We are very pleased with this prestigious award, as it allows us to develop an innovative invention that offers low-cost, easy-to-use, rapid detection of pathogens using nanotechnology.
“The invention is suitable for large-scale screening of viral infections with excellent sensitivity and specificity without the need to send the sample to laboratory. This would enable early and effective treatment of the diseases.”
The device can be manufactured using a printing technique, which offers low-cost high-volume production of the technology, to ensure commercial viability of the invention. This is in collaboration with co-investigator Dr Davide Deganello, from the Welsh Centre for Printing and Coating (WCPC) at Swansea University.
Dr Richard Stanton said: “Up to 1,000 babies are born every year in the UK with permanent disabilities as a result of HCMV infection. This project is a fantastic opportunity to combine expertise in virus infection at Cardiff University, viral diagnosis at the Wales Specialist Virology Centre, nanotechnology at Swansea University and printing at the WCPC to make a real difference to their quality of life.”
Welcoming the news of the grant award, Caroline Star, Chair of CMV Action, said: “We are very excited on this innovative project. An early diagnosis of congenital HCMV is crucial to ensure that families can get the treatment and monitoring their babies need. Sadly this often does not happen.
“The families we represent feel strongly that more should be done to screen newborn babies for HCMV. We hope this research will show how this can be done and help to limit the devastating impact of HCMV.”
Collaboration with Chromotrap leads to step change in efficiency and scope of epigenetic research
Scientists at Swansea University’s Centre for NanoHealth, College of Medicine, who are working in collaboration with Porvair plc, have co-developed and taken to market Chromatrap® 96 (C96) – a product which is designed to enable researchers to perform many Chromatinimmunoprecipitation (ChIP) experiments simultaneously.
ChIP is a technique used to study the association of specific proteins with defined genomic regions and it is crucial to epigenetic research.
Epigenetics is the study of gene information and its characteristics and its application is used in essential research for diseases including cancer and neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s. The overall application of epigenetics remains in its infancy.
The Chromatrap® 96 is set to make a major contribution to epigenetic research on a global scale, offering researchers unprecedented assay flexibility and speed.
The research is featured this month on the front page of leading life sciences journal Nature Methods online and the full feature can be found here http://www.nature.com/app_notes/nmeth/2014/140909/pdf/nmeth.f.372.pdf
Professor Steve Conlan, Head of Reproductive Biology and Gynaecological Oncology Research, Director of Strategic Partnerships for the College of Medicine, and Co-Director of the Centre for NanoHealth, said: “Our collaboration with Porvair has led to the development of a technical advancement that is allowing us to streamline our epigenetics research by enabling faster and more accurate experiments necessary to understand disease processes and therapeutic developments.”
The group’s research is explained in this short video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0uhdtVAoQQ.
Dr Amy Beynon of Porvair said: “Chromatrap streamlines the ChIP process making it a simple, efficient and easy assay to perform. The C96 format provides customers with huge flexibility and greater reproducibility. We are the only company to provide a format in which 96 ChIP assays can be processed in just one day.
“Excellent feedback from customers and a growing database we hope to provide a step change in ChIP and its use for clinical research.”
Swansea University researchers develop new cancer detecting sensor
A team of researchers from Swansea University, using the University’s Centre for NanoHealth, have developed a highly sensitive graphene biosensor with the capability to detect molecules which show signs of increased cancer risk.
The newly developed graphene biosensor could ultimately help to provide a rapid diagnosis at the point of care. In comparison with other bioassay tests, this sensor was over five times more sensitive.
Conventionally, graphene is produced using an exfoliation technique in which layers of graphene are stripped from graphite. However for a biosensor, a large substrate area is required in order to produce patterned graphene devices.
The researchers used conditions of low pressure and very high temperatures in order to grow graphene on a substrate of silicon carbide. The graphene devices were then patterned by using methods similar to those used when processing semiconductors. The team then attached antibody bioreceptor molecules that could bind to specific target molecules in urine, saliva or blood.
In order to verify if the bioreceptor molecules were bound to the graphene biosensor, the researchers used Raman spectroscopy and x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy. The biosensor was then exposed to various concentrations of the molecule 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-OHdG).
When high amounts of DNA damage occur, 8-OHdG is produced which is connected to a high risk of cancer development. Traditional detection tests, such as enzyme-linked immunobsorbant assays (ELISAs), are not capable of detecting the low concentrations of 8-OHdG present in urine.
The graphene sensor had the capability to detect low concentrations of 8-OHdG at a comparatively faster rate. Co-author of the study Dr Owen Guy, Swansea University said: “Graphene has superb electronic transport properties and has an intrinsically high surface-to-volume ratio, which make it an ideal material for fabricating biosensors.
“Now that we’ve created the first proof-of-concept biosensor using epitaxial graphene, we will look to investigate a range of different biomarkers associated with different diseases and conditions, as well as detecting a number of different biomarkers on the same chip.”
The paper has been published in 2D Materials, a journal of IOP Publishing and can be downloaded from http://iopscience.iop.org/2053-1583/1/2/025004/article .
New method to ‘barcode’ human cells will help identify and track cancer cells
Researchers at Swansea University’s Centre for NanoHealth in the College of Engineering have led an international collaboration to develop a new method to ‘barcode’ individual human cells. The method can be used to identify and track rare cell types, such as cancer cells, in large populations.
The team’s paper, entitled Nanoparticle Vesicle Encoding for Imaging and Tracking Cell Populations, was published in the leading life sciences journal Nature Methods on Sunday, September 14. Working in collaboration with colleagues from the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA), the Institute for Materials Research at Leeds University, and General Electric Healthcare in Cardiff, the team have found one of the key advantages of their method is the cells ‘choose’ their own barcode depending on their physical state and therefore cancer cell barcodes appear different from healthy cells when examined through high-throughput microscope imaging.
The paper’s lead author, Professor Paul Rees of Swansea University’s College of Engineering, said: “The ability to analyse collective behaviour within a cell population is crucial to the understanding of health and disease in the human body.
“However, the inability to accurately identify, track and measure thousands of single cells through using high-throughput microscope imaging has impeded dynamic studies of cell populations.
“We have demonstrated the unique method of labelling cells by colour-coding and generating a large number of unique digital codes, which enable us to immediately see a cell’s identity and allows us to track single human cells.”
The new method works because cells absorb nanoparticles as they take up nutrients from any surrounding fluid and then encapsulate them in a protective membrane, which means they do not alter the cells behaviour.
By introducing three different colours of nanoparticle to the cell population the colour pattern generated is unique enough to act as a barcode allowing researchers to distinguish each individual cell in a large population. Also as the number of nanoparticles in the cell does not change the same cell can be identified after much longer time periods than has previously been possible.As the number of nanoparticles that a cell takes up is dependent on the cell state this method allows the identification of mutated cells in a large population because the barcode of these cells will have a different pattern to healthy cells.
Dr Anne Carpenter, Head of the Imaging Platform at the Broad Institute, added: “There are many situations in which uniquely identifying and tracking individual cells within a population is desirable. Examples of this would be identification of a rare cell within a wider population, such as a stem cell or a cancer cell.”
This is a significant step in the development of tools to study the evolution of large cell populations. Looking ahead, this method will allow researchers to observe the progression of individual cells to a cancerous state or to study the evolution of stem cells into the cells which make up the human body.
The team’s work was funded through two grants from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), one of which is the International Collaboration Sabbatical scheme, which enabled Professor Rees to go on sabbatical to the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT (Boston), collaborators on the paper and where part of the research work was done. The University’s Centre for NanoHealth is also funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Welsh Government.