Speedy diagnosis

UK researchers have developed a novel system that has the potential to speed-up disease diagnosis and drug screening.

Researchers at Cardiff University’s School of Medicine and the Gray Cancer Institute Oxford have developed a novel system that has the potential to speed-up disease diagnosis and drug screening.

And now, Cancer Research Technology Limited and the Technology Partnership plan to develop the so-called CyMap system further after signing a technology transfer agreement with Cardiff University.

CyMap is one of the inventions emerging from the Optical Biochips Consortium led by the university’s professor of cancer biology, Prof Paul Smith.

Smith was in overall charge of the £2.3m biochip project carried out by the consortium and funded by Research Councils UK.

CyMap works on the principle that when illuminated using a light-emitting diode, cells or pathogens in a sample create light diffraction and interference patterns that can be recorded by a charge-coupled device and then analysed using computer algorithms.

That analysis can then provide the user with details on the number of cells or pathogens, and also enables the location, movement and division of cells to be monitored over time.

The information will be useful in helping scientists understand cell division and cell movement – important in some normal processes such as wound healing, and in some diseases, including cancer.

It has the potential to be used in medical diagnostics systems in hospitals, doctors’ surgeries and research laboratories to detect, quantify and analyse cultured cells and medical samples including blood.

Smith, co-inventor alongside Dr Rachel Errington, also from the university’s School of Medicine, said: ‘This technology will mean that we can act in terms of diagnosing disease at the cellular level very quickly.

‘It is envisaged that CyMAP can be developed into a handheld device, which should make the equipment accessible and affordable for more people working in cancer and other health-related disciplines across the world, not just the larger, more well-equipped biosciences laboratories.’