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University of Birmingham scientists using novel hydrogel to create ‘lollipops’ for mouth cancer diagnostic

Researchers from the University of Birmingham have received funding from Cancer Research UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to create a new ‘lollipop’ diagnostic for mouth cancer using a novel smart hydrogel.

Developed by Dr Ruchi Gupta and colleagues from the School of Chemistry, the biocompatible hydrogel concentrates and labels proteins with a fluorescent marker in a single step, making it suitable for diagnostics that aim to detect low abundance proteins from small sample sizes according to the University.

The hydrogel achieves protein capture via the fluorescent marker (fluorescein isothiocyanate or FITC), which is attached to the hydrogel by a photocleavable bond. On exposure to light, the protein, which is now attached to the fluorescein, is released from the hydrogel.

The university says that initial studies on the gel, published last year in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Analyst journal, showed the gel offered a concentration factor of 236 with a reference protein (streptavidin), and 50% of the proteins used in the hydrogel were released after 100 seconds exposure to UV light.

According to the team, diagnostics are a new landscape for biogels, which up until now have been used for drug delivery and tissue regeneration.

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