Skip to main content

Biomarkers + optics equal a powerful new healthcare capability

Biomarkers are getting a lot of attention lately as a means of monitoring health and diagnosing disease, and it’s no surprise that photonics-based sensing techniques are bringing them into the spotlight. A project named BILOBA is a collaboration funded by the European Commission through its Seventh Framework Programme. The acronym is an abbreviation of “Bloch electromagnetic surface wave bio-sensors for early cancer diagnosis”(!)

BILOBA plans to develop and pre-clinically validate a multifunctional point-of-care platform that is capable of performing real-time cancer biomarker detection in a tandem configuration. Such configuration will utilize label-free detection based on the resonance shift, and the spectral analysis of enhanced fluorescence emitted by biomolecules immobilized on the surface. Utilizing both labeled and label-free analysis on the same sensor system can increase the sensitivity and reliability of optically read out surface-bound assays.

The well-established optical standard method for non-labeled detection is the surface plasmon resonance method. Its sensitivity suffers from the strong absorption of surface-bound waves. A similar concept, already at the proof-of-principle stage, will be advantageously implemented by applying the unique properties of Bloch Surface Waves (BSW) sustained on a 1D Photonic Crystal. Therein, a surface wave without absorption is excited, giving rise to an enormous narrowing of resonances and an associated increase in sensitivity. Furthermore, fluorescence enhancement due to near-field effects will be exploited. By utilizing the dispersion of the BSW both detection schemes will be combined.

The major goal of the project is to explore, design, and set-up BSW systems optimized for analytical sensing, associated with the development of a corresponding analytical instrument. For this purpose, the immobilization protocols and biochemical assays have to be established to ensure an optimized binding site density at the surface and to enable the detection of the target biomarkers. Furthermore, a fluidic system will be developed, which will supply and handle the aqueous analyte solutions while ensuring a high signal-to-noise ratio and robust results even in the case of ultralow concentrations. The platform will be validated by pre-clinical tests on the detection of Angiopoietin-1 and -2, and Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor.

The BILOBA project consists of nine participants from different European countries and with different objectives of participating. The three-year project just completed its first year. Its budget is €4.73 million, including €3.6 million from the European Commission.

On a related note, SPIE Newsroom has just published a timely video about the sensing of biomarkers, with Francesco Baldini of Italy’s Institute of Applied Physics. Baldini chairs a conference on Optical Sensing for SPIE and his lab has been working on numerous types and applications of biosensors for years.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

#FacesofPhotonics: Rising Researcher Alina Zare

SPIE's #FacesofPhotonics is sharing the story of Alina Zare, Associate Professor at the The Machine Learning and Sensing Lab at the University of Florida. Dr. Zare was recognized as a 2018 Rising Researcher for her work in Electronic Imaging & Signal Processing, at the SPIE Defense + Commercial Sensing conference.

This program recognizes early career professionals who conduct outstanding research in the defense, commercial, and scientific sensing, imaging, optics, or related fields. If you want to learn more about the program, the details are here.

Enjoy the interview with Alina!

1. Tell us about when you first became interested in optics and photonics. In my senior year of  undergraduate studies in computer science, I was taking an Image Processing elective.  I really enjoyed the course, and the professor for the class, Dr. Gerhard Ritter, encouraged me to do some undergraduate research.  
So I joined Dr. Paul Gader's research lab as a undergraduate researcher where I he…

#FacesofPhotonics: Photovoltaics PhD Student Arfa Karani

Meet this week's SPIE Faces of Photonics feature, Arfa Karani. Arfa is a physics PhD student at the University of Cambridge, studying the physics of solar cells. She is originally from India, but has lived outside her home country for many years while pursuing her education. 

Arfa was also President of the SPIE Student Chapter at the University of Cambridge in 2017-18, and continues to remain involved with the chapter when she's not hard at work in the university's Cavendish Lab.


Enjoy her interview!




1. How did you become interested in the optics and photonics field? Was there a person who inspired you?

My physics teacher at school inspired me. I got interested in studying optics because my curiosity was satisfied by this teacher, who was extremely enthusiastic about what they did. When you ask too many questions as a child, people try to divert your attention once they are tired of answering. Not this teacher.

I know it’s a bit cliché, but I was amazed by how one could cre…

Lighting Their Way

It's a feast for the science-curious senses: in June, two cohorts of two dozen middle-school girls came together for the free, STEM-focused, four-day-long Physics Wonder Girls Camp sessions organized by Dr. Roberto Ramos, associate professor of physics at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

The girls studied the properties of light, built telescopes, designed and engineered submersible robots, and learned about scientific professions directly from the experts: nanoscientist and Chair of Bryn Mawr College's Physics Department Dr. Xuemei Cheng; INTEL software engineer Dr. Marisa Bauza-Roman; and several female food scientists from Puratos, a global company working with bakers and chocolatiers to assess the best ways to improve their products, all came and talked about their professions, answering questions and interacting with the campers. Plus, they got to be on TV!

The camp was initially inspired by Dr. Ramos' daughter Kristiana who expressed interest in the s…