NanoBioTech: Health and Environment
The research project NanoBioTech: Health and Environment (Regional Law No. 13/2008 - Promotion of research and development of innovation and technology transfer in the Lazio Region), now concluded, has set a double objective, aiming at the development of innovative methods with a high social impact in two extremely topical areas. The work carried out in relation to the Health sector has made it possible to considerably expand the know-how in the field of oncological diagnostics through the design, implementation and evaluation of highly specific instruments, an aspect of particular interest, and above all of considerable clinical importance, considering the delicate argument. The Environment research topic focused instead on issues related to the eco-toxicological field as it aimed to monitor the impact of the ever-more pervasive nanomaterials on human health.
The multiple activities related to the Health theme are to be considered as an integral part of a single objective, whose complexity has necessarily required a functional division at several levels in order to achieve sub-objectives with a high degree of detail. The development of an innovative sensor for the early diagnosis of tumours, which can be used in oncology and hospital centres, is therefore only the final synthesis output behind which different scientific-technological aspects converge.
The objectives of the project included: (i) the preparation of a nanostructured sensor in gold or silver functionalized with aptamers, synthetic oligonucleotides, for the selective recognition of tumour biomarkers, (ii) the development of an instrumental analysis protocol using spectroscopy Raman SERS (surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy) for the detection of extremely small concentrations of the analyte under study, (iii) the development of an ad hoc algorithm for the elaboration of the acquired signals and the relative quantification, (iv) the design and realization of a flow chamber in which to place multiple biosensors simultaneously and (v) the translation of the general analysis system developed on a highly complex analytical platform towards a simpler and more agile instrumentation in order to favour a future positioning in centres diagnostics, obviously avoiding to sacrifice the accuracy of the measurement required.
The assessment of the eco-toxicological impact of nanomaterials was the central topic of the Environment strand and the related research activity focused on the development of detailed analytical methods to allow adequate monitoring. The presence of nanostructures is increasingly ubiquitous and capillary, being now included in consumer products and widely used in many industrial processes. In this scenario, then, having specific tools for identifying and quantifying their presence in complex matrices, even at very low concentrations, becomes an absolute necessity.
Therefore, different methods of data acquisition were considered to outline an overall picture as precise as possible, using model organisms that could provide direct feedback on the possible negative effects of the diffusion of nanomaterials.