Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 263171
Loughborough University

Enterprise Awards 2013

Intellectual Property

Scientist holding a test tube in a lab

Imaging the cellular metallome – a new technology in bio-medical research

Loughborough academics
Professor Barry Sharp, Dr Helen Reid, David Douglas and Amy Managh, Department of Chemistry

Metallomics is a rapidly developing area of bio-science that seeks to understand how metals and metalloids influence biological processes. Roughly half of all proteins contain a metal and up to one third depend on it to function. Conversely, metal binding to DNA is nearly always damaging and some metals are known carcinogens.

Metals play a key role in many diseases, e.g. copper toxicity in Wilson’s disease, whereas platinum is the key therapeutic agent in the largest class of chemotherapeutic drugs. Imaging the metallome in tissues and cells is a powerful new technology for studying disease processes and their treatment.

Loughborough’s technology combines laser ablation – breaking tissue samples into the tiniest amounts – and plasma mass spectrometry – the detection of elements and molecules within samples. The Loughborough technique is an improvement on previous systems because it is extremely sensitive. Like a Bloodhound, it is able to detect the tiniest traces of elements and molecules and is being used in three key health areas:

Two further projects – BIOMAP (European Framework 7) and a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (Technology Strategy Board) with LGC – focus on the further development of imaging technologies.

View article on personalised chemotherapy research

Stage of development

The project has attracted further support from three European grants to pursue its pioneering work:

  • BIOMAP to focus on bio-imaging
  • The One Study which will allow the team to label and track immuno-suppressant cells using laser imaging
  • Metallomics to target Platinum-protein interactions

The laser imaging technology developed in the Loughborough laboratory is being patented by – and sold to – Electro Scientific Industries Inc who will commercialise the designs and provide a license income to the University when the imaging cells go on sale.

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