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Raman Nanotheranostics - RaNT - developing the targeted diagnostics and therapeutics of the future by combining light and functionalised nanoparticles
The rapidly emerging field of 'Nano-Theranostics' is widely expected to have a significant impact on healthcare in the next decade and beyond. Theranostics is the combination of therapy and diagnosis. It aims to identify diseases and treat them in a single, effective non-surgical procedure. Our recently developed gold nano-technologies allow unprecedented accuracy in identifying diseases such as cancers measured at depths of centimetres inside the body using only light. Furthermore, light can then also be used to trigger the gold particles to destroy the diseased cells or tissues identified using this method in a controlled, safe and targeted fashion.Numerous diseases would benefit from new methods to provide early accurate diagnosis, with effective localised treatment tailored to each patient and non-invasive monitoring of treatment progress. Existing diagnostic techniques do not manage to measure the early changes in the makeup of abnormal cells - whilst they are still in the body with sufficient accuracy or sensitivity. In cancers the molecular changes found within the cells and tissues are the downstream effects of genetic mutations driving the tumour development. A novel method to identify these early changes within the body, without removing tissue, and to use them to target treatment or monitor progression is our objective, delivering tangible benefits in patient outcome and costs. We will also develop a novel approach for assembling tiny gold nanoparticle clusters to enable their effective optical readout and to pass safely through the body and target diseased cells of interest. These clusters will be coated in a proven biocompatible wrapping which enhances transport across biological barriers, and modified to enable them to be attracted selectively to diseased cells. Most importantly we bring together the unique capabilities: to read out multiple signals non-invasively from clusters at depths of many cm; to build safe clusters which will self-disintegrate over time (eg hours) into smaller safe units that can be excreted from the body; to tune the size and contents of these constructs to enable light to trigger a therapeutic response, via heating or drug delivery; and to provide real-time in-vivo readout of the local temperature within the tissue during treatment to maximise its effectiveness and minimise collateral damage to healthy tissue. Furthermore, the proposed Nano-Theranostic approach will deliver the ability to detect and localise many different diseases via a single nano-construct. This utilises functionalised gold nanoparticles to produce specific spectroscopic signatures (via surface enhanced Raman - SERS) from reporter molecules illuminated with low intensity, safe, near-infrared laser light from outside the body. This opens the way for real-time identification and localisation, within the body, of distinct expressions of disease, by targeting numerous specific molecular targets simultaneously. The near-infrared light is barely absorbed in tissues and cells and is non-cancerous (unlike UV light), thus facilitating the possibility of safe, regular non-invasive monitoring of treatment or progression of disease. In the near future, patients will have effective and limited treatments selected specifically for their needs, to maximise the therapeutic value of any necessary treatment and prevent the application of any unnecessary, and potentially harmful through side effects, therapy. This has the potential to lead to not only increased survival rates, but increased quality of life for those likely to be offered major treatments in current clinical system and also potentially save many £100Ms across the UK each year on ineffective treatments. We constitute a team of world leading experts in complementary research fields to facilitate a number of significant advances impacting on healthcare of the future.
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