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Silicon Microneedles steer personalised medicine
A £800k project that will develop high-volume, quality controlled, low-cost, bespoke, silicon microneedle devices for specialised Point of Care (POC) health applications is set to transform the multi-billion dollar drug delivery markets.
Researchers at Swansea University’s Centre for NanoHealth in collaboration with Cardiff University School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Global MEMS and semiconductor lead industry partner SPTS Technologies are undertaking a new project ‘Manufacture of Silicon microneedles for drug and vaccine delivery’ that combines microfabrication and manufacturing expertise (SU / SPTS) with pre-clinical and clinical expertise in skin testing and drug / vaccine delivery from Cardiff University. Novel hollow microneedle arrays for drug and vaccine delivery will be developed to demonstrate their potential in clinical practice.
The project which is funded through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) aims to develop silicon microneedles for transdermal ‘pain free’ injection.
Considerably finer and shorter than any hypodermic syringe needle, the microneedle devices are relatively painless, (they do not puncture deep enough into the skin to stimulate pain), and cause appreciably less damage to skin than traditional hypodermic needles. This is critical in situations where patients will require regular therapy.
Dr Owen Guy, Associate Professor, College of Engineering who is leading the project said, ‘The key benefit of silicon microneedles is the flexibility and scalability of manufacturing; it is this aspect that we focus on in this application, developing bespoke but scalable manufacturing processes for personalised medicine.’
‘Our novel sharp microneedle design - developed using SPTS Technologies' deep silicon etch technology - will facilitate microneedle skin penetration using low insertion forces.’
Prof. James Birchall, leading the skin testing of the microneedles at Cardiff added ‘New, simple microneedle drug / vaccine delivery systems could have significant impact on the multi- billion dollar drug delivery market, enabling for the first time the effective transcutaneous delivery of a wide range of low and high molecular weight drug molecules and vaccines against pathogens such as influenza, hepatitis B, measles, polio and rabies. Optimisation of hollow microneedle designs is essential to ensure accurate and reproducible injection of viable drug and vaccine dosages.’
For more information on this please contact Dr Owen Guy, Associate Professor College of Engineering email@example.com
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 .