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Birmingham scientists using novel hydrogel to create ‘lollipops’ for mouth cancer diagnostic

Researchers from the University of Birmingham have received funding from Cancer Research UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to create a new ‘lollipop’ diagnostic for mouth cancer using a novel smart hydrogel.

Developed by Dr. Ruchi Gupta and colleagues from the School of Chemistry, the biocompatible hydrogel concentrates and labels proteins with a fluorescent marker in a single step, making it suitable for diagnostics that aim to detect low abundance proteins from small sample sizes. 

The hydrogel achieves protein capture via the fluorescent marker (fluorescein isothiocyanate or FITC), which is attached to the hydrogel by a photocleavable bond. On exposure to light, the protein, which now attached to the flourescin, is released from the hydrogel. 

Initial studies on the gel, published last year in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Analyst journal, showed the gel  offered a concentration factor of 236 with a reference protein (streptavidin), and 50% of the proteins in the hydrogel were released after 100 seconds exposure to UV light. 

Diagnostics are new landscape for biogels, which until now have been used for drug delivery and tissue regeneration. 

The gel developed by Dr. Gupta offers distinct benefits over existing diagnostic techniques.  It has far fewer steps than ELISA based assays, or preconcentration using beads and electrophoresis, and can be conducted at room temperature.

Cancer Research Horizon’s, the innovation engine built to complement Cancer Research UK’s network has filed a patent application for the novel hydrogel, and the Birmingham researchers are seeking collaborators or partners to develop further applications. 

The gel’s biocompatibility means the hydrogel can be used either in vitro, or directly on patients, as with the current project, which aims to replace current invasive, time-consuming diagnostic procedures that need to be conducted by medical professionals. 

Dr. Ruchi Gupta, Associate Professor of Biosensors at the University of Birmingham, said: “Smart hydrogels have really exciting potential for diagnosing mouth cancer.  They can be easily moulded into shapes as a solid to “catch” proteins in saliva, and we’re hoping that we can be the first to make a device which is much kinder for diagnosing mouth cancer for patients and easier for GPs to use. 

“Beyond this project, we’re keen to investigate other possibilities for the hydrogel, and will welcome approaches from research or commercial organisations who want to collaborate on research or commercialisation.” 

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Upcoming Events

Infection Prevention & Control

National Conference Centre, Birmingham
23rd - 24th April 2024

ESGE Days 2024, Symposium – ‘Elevating Endoscopy: Inspiring Progress and Innovation’

Estrel Congress Center (room 15), Berlin, Germany
25th April 2024, 16:30 – 17:30 CEST

National DERS and SMART pump conference

BCEC, Birmingham
29th April 2024

Theatres & Decontamination Conference 2024

Coventry Building Society Arena
16th May 2024

The AfPP Roadshow - Birmingham

Millennium Point, Birmingham
18th May 2024

BAUN Summer Educational Event – Essential Urology Skills

Crowne Plaza, Newcastle Stephenson Quarter
6th June 2024

Access the latest issue of Clinical Services Journal on your mobile device together with an archive of back issues.

Download the FREE Clinical Services Journal app from your device's App store

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