Posted: Jun 7th, 2012 Better Alzheimer's detection: new EU-funded project to developnanoscope ( Nanowerk News ) A new research project that will pioneer a nanoscope to screenpatient cells and potentially help with the early detection ofAlzheimer's disease has just kicked off. With a boost of more than EUR 4 million in funding from the'Nanosciences, nanotechnologies, materials and new productiontechnologies' Theme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7),the LANIR ('Label free nanoscopy using infra red') project will bring together researchers from 11 partner institutes acrossBelgium, Germany, Ireland, France, Italy and Romania. Theconsortium is made up of both small and medium-sized enterprise(SME) and academic partners. Set to run until 2012, the central aim of LANIR is to help find away of detecting Alzheimer's disease in its early stages, as thisis critical to developing effective treatments for the condition.At present, there is no such test available, despite the 7.7million new cases each year worldwide, as well as 800 000 newpatients in Europe who are affected by other forms of dementia.Alzheimer's disease is also directly responsible for increasingdependency costs among the elderly. |
The LANIR team will develop a nanoscope technique that works bydeploying infrared (IR) radiation as a source of detection. Itwould be able to see features as small as 70 nanometres in lateraldimension, which is comparable to the size of a virus. The LANIRprototype will allow direct imaging of the chemistry and thestructure of very small 'buried' features, without having todestroy the surface of a cell or a material. Infrared nanoscopy (IRN) is based on Infrared reflection absorptionspectroscopy (IRAS), which measures the IR absorption in a materialby recording the IR light reflected by or transmitted through thesample. When an incident IR wavelength matches with the specific(vibrational) excitations of chemical bonds in the probed moleculesor materials, the IR absorption increases resonantly.
IRspectroscopy thus reveals characteristic signatures of the chemicalstructures and molecular species. IRN's two main features are advanced laser techniques andspatio-temporal optical patterning. Chemical fingerprints of asample can be imaged point by point at nanometre resolution byscanning over the pump-probe pattern on the sample. CORDIS News spoke to Project Manager John Mulcahy from theMaterials and Surface Science Institute at the University ofLimerick, Ireland, the LANIR coordinating institution. He comments on the project: 'The infrared nanoscope being developedin LANIR will provide tools for use as an early diagnostic devicefor Alzheimer's disease, which will allow timely interventionagainst the causes of reversible dementias, the start of therapiesthat can slow disease progression, the start of therapies that canpotentiate the cognitive performance of patients by exploiting thenon-complete impairment of their neuronal circuits, and theimplementation of measures that reduce the effects of theco-morbidity associated with dementia.' He also described how the nanoscope will help with the timelyimplementation by patients and their families of the measuresnecessary to solve problems related to the disease's progression.
John Mulcahy outlined how important EU funding is to the success ofthe project and the significance of the participation of the sixSME partners for getting the table-top prototype to market: 'Thetransnational nature of FP7 Collaborative projects such as LANIR isparticularly beneficial to bring together leading microscopists,spectroscopists and biologists under one umbrella beside industryleaders, to develop a new nanoscope and relevant applications ofthe nanoscope. FP7 funding leverages significant funding to bringthis groundbreaking technique to a commercial reality in theshortest possible time. The specific emphasis on SMEs in FP7projects has also been important to ensure participation frominnovative and research and development (R&D)-oriented SMEs,and interfacing them with top-level expertise and infrastructureavailable in academic and public research bodies, in order to bringforward this groundbreaking technology. It would not have beenpossible to progress the technology otherwise.' As well as the prototype, table-top, multimodal IRN, the projectwill also construct three research IR microscopes, which willroutinely image at a resolution less than 1 000 nm in IR and lessthan 100 nm in visible light. These three research IR microscopeswill be located in Limerick in Ireland, Bucharest in Romania andGenoa in Italy.
Mr Mulcahy says this ensures the benefits of high-end nanoscopywill be spread out across the whole of Europe, a feat he describesas 'impossible without FP7 funding'.
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