Project aims to overcome flow cytometry limits, enable new biomarkers for diabetes, cancer

MAY 26, 2009--NanoSight Ltd., manufacturer of nanoparticle characterization technology, says it is closely involved in research and development of a new generation of novel instrumentation and methodologies aimed at measuring cellular nanoparticles in plasma and urine as biomarkers of a broad range of human disease conditions.

The research will be led by a world-class team from the University of Oxford, which was recently awarded a prestigious Wellcome Trust Technology Development Grant to work on the detection and characterization of nanoparticles in the early detection of human disease. The project involves the detection in the bloodstream of tiny fragments of cells, microparticles (100nm - 1 micron) and exosomes (30nm - 100nm), which are important for how cells communicate with each other. The numbers of these particles have been found to be significantly raised in the blood of patients with a number of diseases including heart disease, diabetes, pre-eclampsia, clotting problems and cancer, raising the possibility that measuring these particles in blood could be used to predict those at risk. However, their detection and size distribution measurement pose considerable challenges.

Alerted to NanoSight's capabilities by Professor Dobson of Begbroke Science Park, who recognized the fit between the project and the NanoSight technology of which he was an early adopter, the Oxford group discussed their requirements with NanoSight's scientists and, following very promising initial results, successfully applied for and were awarded 322,000 pounds of Wellcome Trust funding in support of the three-year project.

NanoSight will develop a novel fluorescence variant of its existing instrumentation in collaboration with the Oxford scientists to enable these micro- and nanoparticles to be detected and characterized in plasma and urine samples for the first time. By breaking through the limitations of existing fluorescence microparticle technology (such as flow cytometry) NanoSight hopes to help open up a new class of diagnostic biomarkers in the fight against some of the most common and threatening diseases to afflict humans.

The research team, which is led by Professor Ian Sargent at the Women's Centre of the John Radcliffe Hospital and is part of the Oxford Biomedical Research Centre, includes Professor Chris Redman (Obstetrics and Gynaecology), Dr. Paul Harrison (Haemophilia and Thrombosis Centre), Professor Adrian Harris (Cancer Research UK) and Professor Peter Dobson. Other collaborators include Dr. Leanne Hodson and Dr. Frederick Karpe of the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Only five such Wellcome Trust Technology Development awards were made worldwide in 2007-2008 and only one in the year 2006-2007. According to NanoSight CTO Dr. Bob Carr, "the award of this Technology Development grant is aimed at providing support for researchers wishing to develop technologies or to refine existing techniques which should facilitate other research and yield benefits to the wider scientific community. That this prestigious project is based specifically on the potential of NanoSight's technology to help solve a previously intractable problem is testament to the unique value of the instrumentation that we offer".

The Wellcome Trust is the most diverse biomedical research charity in the world and spends over 600 million pounds every year both in the UK and internationally achieving their mission of supporting and promoting research to improve the health of humans and animals. NanoSight Ltd. provides instruments for the optical detection and real time analysis of sub-micron particles that have specific application in virus particle detection and counting. The company has a growing base of users worldwide, including BASF, GlaxoSmithKline, 3M Corp, BP, ICI, Roche & Unilever and many universities.

For more information please visit NanoSight's website. See also the site for the Wellcome Trust, including its Technology Development section. And learn more about Professor Ian Sargent's group at Oxford.

Posted by Barbara G. Goode, barbarag@pennwell.com, for BioOptics World.

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