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SLIC — Result In Brief

Project ID: 513771
Country: Switzerland

Better diagnosis of bacteria responsible for infection

EU-funded researchers combined two patented molecular diagnostic technologies to enhance the speed, reliability and cost effectiveness of diagnosis of bacterial infections.
Better diagnosis of bacteria responsible for infection
Molecular diagnostics (MD) uses the measurement of molecules such as proteins, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) or ribonucleic acid (RNA) to identify specific states of health or disease. One common use of MD is in identification of bacterial species present in a given sample.

With funding of the SLIC project, European researchers sought to develop a biosensor-based device for MD that would make tests faster, easier and more cost effective and thus more globally accessible, even in developing countries.

The consortium built on two patented technologies, Riboseq and the SLIC-Nanobiosystem. Riboseq is a technique based on the universal bacterial genomic target, transfer-messenger RNA (tmRNA or SsrA), highly conserved in all known bacterial genomes.

Scientists used the Riboseq technology to create DNA probes for bacterial pathogens including those causing strains of pneumonia, the flu and tuberculosis without amplification.

They integrated the probes with the SLIC-Nanobiosystem, a biosensor platform based on an artificial cell membrane in which a synthetic ligand-gated ion channel (SLIC) is inserted.

Ligand-gated ion channels are proteins in the membranes of cells. They open in response to the binding of specific ligands, molecules that fit with the ion channel receptor site like a lock and key.

Opening allows ions to move in or out of the cell, an important process in cellular signalling and one that generates a small current that can be recorded.

Scientists used a specific ‘capture molecule’ in the SLIC from the Riboseq technology that bound a specific analyte (substance to be analysed, e.g. bacteria strain). They then monitored the current induced by opening of the SLIC to indicate a positive test for the presence of the given bacterial strain.

Successful microorganism identification with the hybrid technology used by the SLIC project consortium promises to be a powerful tool for improved MD tests for important infectious diseases such as those affecting the upper respiratory system.

Technology could also find application in detection related to bioterrorism and has the potential to be one of the first RNA point-of-care testing devices on the market.

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