A multi-technique multi-disciplinary research programme is proposed addressing analysis and selective recognition of biomedical materials and cells. The research will address two aspects in the analysis of biological samples, exploiting a combination of Raman spectroscopy, SNOM and confocal microscopy:
- the distinction and characterisation of micro-organisms (bacteria) for rapid turn-around analysis of infectious problems; and
- the investigation of IL-13 action on cells (exemplary for immunology research at and below cell dimensions).
The first topic entails research on micro-organisms, with the aim of rapid characterisation / identification of micro-organisms / microbial pathogens (e.g. multi-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus) and their sub-strains; this would help in the diagnosis of latent or new infections e.g. after surgery, and rapid response to and management of infection. Any ideal analysis technique should require minimal sample preparation, permit the automatic analysis of serial samples, allow their rapid characterisation against a stable database, would be easy to use and would be operated under computer control.
This study constitutes a development research programme to meet the aforementioned analysis criteria, and to establish sample preparation procedures compatible to those of other, established analysis methods. Research on IL-13 by J.M. Hopkins group (Medical School, University of Swansea) has recently identified a genetic polymorphism, linked with asthma, which results in an amino acid change in IL-13. The functional consequences of this are unclear, but modelling suggests that the change in sequence alters the differential affinity of IL-13 for specific receptors. We will undertake proof-of-principle experiments, using nm-scale NSOM techniques, to confirm that this change in sequence does indeed alter the affinity of the ligand for its various receptors. Time permitting the study will be extended to in vivo systems.
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