Nanotechnology In Practice

The novel properties of materials at the nanoscale offer potential for sensors with increased sensitivity to facilitate early detection of disease. Accurate diagnosis will require sensors capable of detecting multiple biomarkers at high sensitivity and specificity to minimise false positive and false negative errors.

Ongoing biomarker discovery and validation programmes, led by contributors to the Centre for NanoHealth, include analysis of prostate, bladder, oesophageal, lung, cervical and endometrial cancer.

The ability to print biologicals, at high volume and reproducibility, and to functionalise novel detector surfaces form the basis of next-generation devices being developed at the Centre. Quantum dot nanoparticles, tailored to emit at different wavelengths, offer one modality for the simultaneous detection of multiple markers.

Current imaging methods have as a major goal the detection of malignant or pre-malignant cells by conventional scanning devices. The biologicals being developed for sensors could lend themselves to identifying malignant cells overexpressing the target molecule provided an adequate signal can be achieved.

For example, antibodies, presented on metal oxide nanoparticles to give high contrast signals on MRI or CT scans, would detect antigens over-expressed on malignant cells. This could be extended to molecular markers that distinguish the stage of disease and hence allow visualisation unachievable by conventional imaging.

The close proximity and collaboration between the Centre for NanoHealth and Medical Imaging facilities of ILS will ensure rapid development of this area.