Hello all! In 2017 we attended a huge number of events, including the Cheltenham Science Festival, the British Science Festival, and a very sunny Green Man Festival. As a result of our work we were awarded the 2017 Public Engagement Prize from our esteemed colleagues at the Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences institute at the University of Glasgow! We would like to thank everyone who came to speak to us at our many exhibits last year - we had a great time learning what our research means to you, and what you would like to know in the future! Without your interest we would certainly not be winning any prizes! We hope 2018 will be another year of meeting new people, and getting to share our research across the country. Keep an eye on the website - we will be adding some blogs from our newest research members soon!
We hope you all have a very enjoyable and successful 2018!
In 2014 we received 3 million pounds from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to investigate how nanoparticles could be used to improve the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular disease.
Our researchers would like to tell you a little about what we are doing and why we are doing it!
“Cardiovascular diseases cause more than a quarter of all deaths in the UK each year, with death rates from coronary heart disease being highest in Scotland. Estimates suggest the UK spends nearly £2 billion each year on healthcare costs of treating coronary heart disease – our research combines nanotechnology with advanced statistical and biomedical research, focused on a clinical application which we hope will lead to a beneficial change in the treatment of cardiovascular disease patients.” - Professor Duncan Graham, Director of the Centre for Molecular Nanometrology at the University of Strathclyde.
Predominantly, cardiovascular diseases are caused by atherosclerosis, a disease where fat accumulates in arteries and leads to inflammation in these vessels. There is more information on atherosclerosis on our home page, and you can find out more from the following links: https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/conditions/atherosclerosis - http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Atherosclerosis/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Currently, the risk of atherosclerosis is calculated by observing an individual’s age, gender, ethnic group, weight, height, smoking status, family history, blood pressure, and cholesterol level. Unfortunately, many patients are not diagnosed until after they suffer a major clinical event, such as a heart attack or stroke.
Atherosclerosis is characterised by inflammation localised in arterial vessel walls, and we suspect quantifying vascular inflammation in addition to delivering drugs directly to the diseased vessel would be beneficial for diagnosis and treatment.
To this end we will use nanoparticles (small metallic particles), which can be engineered to recognise specific inflammatory markers. The nanoparticles can then be detected using a technique called surface enhanced Raman scattering, whereby a light is shone on the nanoparticles which causes them to vibrate. The vibrations are then detected and the strength of the signal provides an indication of the amount of nanoparticles - and therefore the inflammatory makers present.
In practice, this means that the detection of these nanoparticles would indicate that a patient has atherosclerosis, allowing doctors to calculate their risk of clinical symptoms, and therefor inform treatment. Our ultimate aim is to develop this technology to identify and treat patients before they reach a stage where they are at risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
“Using this nanoparticle technology, the primary aim of the research is to develop a highly-sensitive but relatively affordable means of measuring inflammatory molecules in atherosclerotic vessels in patients, which could enable the clinician to forecast how the disease will progress. Furthermore, the energetic vibrations could be harnessed as a drug release mechanism which could be time-controlled by the flick of a switch. The major advantage of this set-up is that the equipment is portable, so this novel nanoparticle diagnosis and treatment system could potentially be made accessible to everyone”. - Dr Pasquale Maffia, senior lecturer in immunology at the University of Glasgow.
The funding provided by the EPSRC is part of a Healthcare Technologies theme, which plays a vital role in sponsoring basic research capabilities to create new techniques and technologies to address national and global health challenges.
You can meet our team on the “Our Researchers’ tab, but briefly, our team leaders are: Professor Duncan Graham and Dr Karen Faulds, University of Strathclyde; Dr Pasquale Maffia, Professor Naveed Sattar, Professor Iain McInnes and Professor Paul Garside, University of Glasgow; and Professor Mark Girolami of the University of Warwick. We are a composite of physical scientists who are specialists in nanoparticle technology, information technologists capable of interpreting and presenting data from complicated nanoparticle assays and clinical partners who are interested in how best to utilise this new information in improved healthcare practice.