Cured by light

Thursday 13 May 2010

Cured by light

Scots scientists working at the forefront of the use of light in biomedical research have been awarded £1m funding to develop their research.

Professor Kishan Dholakia and Dr Frank Gunn-Moore from the University of St Andrews will use the funding to translate and commercialise their labwork into devices that can be used to investigate a range of diseases.

Using their combined expertise in physics and biology, the researchers will develop their novel photoporation technology with colleagues at the University of Dundee in the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) funded project.

The funding will allow for new trials of the technology in applications such as stem cell science and in agriculture.

It will build on already successful laboratory research by producing novel ‘optical transfecting’ devices, which work like a syringe by injecting compounds into cells.  During the course of the project, the team will collaborate with several optical commercial businesses.

Professor Dholakia commented, “It’s quite astonishing how far we have come with this technology.  We are delighted to see the work progress to such an extent that we have been given the chance to liaise with industry and test its possibility in new areas such as stem cell science and agriculture.”

Under normal circumstances, the cell membrane acts as an impermeable barrier to the passage of most molecules.  The selective introduction of therapeutic agents to the inside of diseased cells has been a key challenge for scientists for many years. The St Andrews-Dundee team have developed a novel system to over come this barrier which will enable targeted drug delivery to cells and tissue at will.

Their studies in ‘shaping’ laser beams have resulted in a new method to create minute self-healing holes in the cell membrane that can permit therapeutic agents to be introduced into cells.

Dr Gunn-Moore commented, “As a biologist I never thought I would end up working in the physics world.  This work came from a chance conversation with Kishan. It truly is amazing that this light syringe has come so far so fast, and we are able to perform experiments we never thought would be possible four years ago. Indeed we have had a lot of interest from other researchers in particular the Cell Biology theme of SULSA (Scottish University Life Science Alliance).”

The new project, which will fund four postdoctoral positions over 3.5 years, will be a flagship project in the new laboratories within the newly built Interdisciplinary Medical Research Institute at St Andrews.


Note to Editors

The researchers are available for interview:

Professor Kishan Dholakia: Telephone 01334 463184
Dr Frank Gunn-Moore: Telephone 01334 463525

Note to Picture Editors

Images are available from the Press Office – contacts below.

Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews Contact Gayle Cook, Senior Communications Manager on 01334 467227 / 462529, mobile 07900 050 103, or email [email protected].

Ref: Cured by light 130510

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