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Self-amplified photonic biosensing platform for microRNA-based early diagnosis of diseases

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - SAPHELY (Self-amplified photonic biosensing platform for microRNA-based early diagnosis of diseases)

Reporting period: 2017-02-01 to 2018-07-31

In today’s point-of-care (POC) market segment, there is an ever-increasing demand for novel and more efficient devices for the early diagnosis of diseases, with a special interest in cancer. According to statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), each year approximately 7.5 million people around the world die because of this disease. Despite these numbers, the WHO states that most cancer types have high cure rates when detected early and treated according to best practices. Therefore, having early and trustful detection tools for the implementation of preventive mass screening programs is a key factor for reducing cancer mortality rates.
On the other hand, the scientific community has recognised the importance of nanotechnology for the current market, with improved performances and functionalities compared to existing technologies and opening the field of applications from health and energy to environmental issues. Among them, nanophotonic technology is one of the main candidates for the creation of the core transduction elements of future high-performance biosensors since it provides significant advantages such as high sensitivity, compactness and high integration level, shorter time to result, label-free detection, and use of very low sample volumes.
Within this context, the SAPHELY project aims at developing a compact and low-cost POC device based on nanophotonic technology for its application to minimally-invasive early diagnosis, with initial focus in cancer. This POC device will significantly help to reduce the actual costs designated for early diagnosis and to implement mass screening programs, meaning a significant contribution to the improvement of the citizens’ health status and to the sustainability of healthcare systems.
In summary, the main activities and outcomes from the work carried out during Period 3 have been:
- Definition and validation of a reduced panel of relevant miRNA biomarkers for the validation of the clinical relevance for cancer diagnosis.
- Determination of relevant miRNA levels by means of PCR-based measurements.
- Design, test and selection of molecular beacon (MB) probes for control miRNAs.
- Design and test of other MB configurations with a different degree of complementarity with its target miRNA.
- Characterization of MBs recognition behavior by means of real-time fluorescence and QCM (Quartz Crystal Microbalance) measurements.
- Up-scaling of the fabrication of the SAPHELY photonic chips using NIL (Nanoimprint Lithography) as well as EBL (e-Beam Lithography) approaches.
- Optimization of the biofunctionalization protocols.
- Optimization of photonic sensing experimental conditions.
- Evaluation of approaches for the on-line dehybridization of the MB probes in order to re-use the photonic sensing chips several times in a row.
- Development and testing of the final configuration of the SAPHELY microfluidic cartridge.
- Up-scaling of the fabrication of the SAPHELY microfluidic cartridge using molding process.
- Implementation and automation of the actuating parts of the SAPHELY readout platform to control the operation of the SAPHELY cartridge.
- Development and optimization of the control software of the SAPHELY readout platform.
- Miniaturization of the final version of the SAPHELY readout platform.
- Experimental testing and validation of the SAPHELY readout platform + cartridge.
- Definition and implementation of measurements to increase the exploitation potential of the SAPHELY technology.
- Continuation of the dissemination/communication activities targeting the promotion of the SAPHELY project.
The novel nanophotonic-based technology to be developed in the SAPHELY project will allow a more sensitive, robust and selective analysis for improved clinical decisions through an early and fast diagnosis of the disease at a reduced cost, thus opening the door to the effective implementation of high-throughput screening programs. This will lead to better health outcomes, since the proper treatment/response can be applied to the patient in an earlier stage, and will contribute to the sustainability of the health care system by decreasing the expenditure associated with pharmaceutical treatments and with hospitalization. Moreover, this analysis device can also be used for its application in the monitoring and assessment of therapeutic response of a patient, opening the door to the practical implementation of the so-called “personalized medicine”.