• Researchers are working on the design of a device to diagnose neurological disorders and tumors

    February 27, 2015

    The prototype, which works like a pregnancy test, detects exosome concentrations which may facilitate the detection of these diseases

    From left to right, Pablo García, Gemma Gutiérrez, Robert Coles, Carmen Blanco, María Matos, Miriam Oliveira, Olvido Iglesias, Carmen Pazos, Eva Cernuda and Esther Serrano.

    Researchers of the University of Oviedo are working on the design of devices to facilitate the diagnosis and monitoring of neurological disorders and tumors. The research group in Emulsions, Nanovesicles and Biotechnology is developing a prototype, similar to a pregnancy test, based on the detection of exosomes, which are small vesicles that secrete all cells and may be found in biological fluids such as blood or urine. Recent research works have proved that the detection of an increase in the number of these vesicles above the normal values is significant from a clinical point of view.

    A research team from the University of Oviedo is working on the synthesis of artificial vesicles to improve analysis methodologies.

    The isolation process of exosomes is very complex and this is why the first step of this research project, funded by the Ministry of Economy and Finance, is to synthesize artificial vesicles that mimic the natural ones to facilitate the development of the analytical system.

    The first prototypes will be aimed at the diagnosis of neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis, although their design can be adapted to the detection of other diseases (urinary tumors, melanoma, etc.) by changing the nature of some of their components.

    How to ‘assemble' an artificial vesicle

    In order to develop an artificial vesicle that imitates exosomes, researchers of the fields of Analytical Chemistry and Chemical Engineering have selected the components that best simulate those of natural cellular vesicles. Scientists use different techniques to assemble the components and make up small vesicles, with similar size and characteristics of natural ones. The methodology allows for a successive approximation to the biological model.

    The next step in the research process is the implementation of an analysis platform. The Campus of International Excellence has funded the stay of one of the researchers of this group, Professor Carmen Blanco, at the Cambridge University, in order to receive specific training in this field.

    The resulting device is similar to a pregnancy test. A nitrocellulose strip with elements that will capture vesicles present in blood or urine samples. Thanks to a reagent that provides color, it will be possible to verify if exosomes levels are normal or not.

    Research Project: Synthetic Exosomes for Clinical Diagnostic Systems Development (EXOMED)

    Research Group Emulsions, Nanovesicles y Bioanalysis:

    Mª del Carmen Pazos Medina, Mª del Carmen Blanco López, Olvido Iglesias Huelga, Gemma Gutiérrez Cervelló, Pedro Oliva Nacarino, Walter Javier Villafani Echazú, Esther Serrano Pertierra, María Matos González and Pablo García Manrique.

    Collaborating Members:

    José Coca Prados (Professor Emeritus in Chemical Engineering at the University of Oviedo), Eva Cernuda Morollón (Neurology Department, University Hospital of Asturias), Mar Valés Gómez (National Center for Biotechnology, CSIC, Madrid), María Yáñez Mo (La Princesa Hospital, Madrid), Robert Coles and Myriam Oliveira Rodríguez (Master´s Degree in Biotechnology, University of Oviedo).