Hospital staff at work

Sensing our health

Across the health service, agriculture and industry, UWE Bristol researchers are developing cutting-edge technology called ‘magnetic-biosensors’ to accurately detect biological molecules. Even in tiny quantities, these results can change lives.

Molecular innovation

Doctors need accurate, sensitive and high-speed methods of detecting changes in their patients’ health. Previous sensing technologies meant samples had to be sent away to laboratories, and results could take days to process. However, a new invention from a team of UWE Bristol researchers means this process can now be done in real-time.

"Ten years ago, we developed magneto-immuno assays", says Professor Janice Kiely. "This novel biosensing technique means that we can get results on the spot, and not only that, they are cheap and reliable. It’s proving to be critical where rapid responses are needed, such as for clinicians definitively diagnosing a heart attack in Accident and Emergency”.

Attractive technologies

The technique works by detecting target molecules binding to a biological receptor – similar to the way pregnancy tests work. The clever development comes with the addition of a magnetic particle which is bound to the receptor. When the target molecule binds to the receptor, the amount of magnetic particles in the sample can instantly be detected. The technique is proving to be a hit beyond health care, as co-researcher Professor Richard Luxton explains.

“We all expect our food to be safe and meat free from disease, but the only way to ensure that at the moment is to give all animals antibiotics,” says Professor Luxton. “That’s not good, as it can lead to antibiotic residues in our food. So we’re working with a company to develop an on-farm test which vets can use to detect disease. If spotted, only that animal would be given antibiotics, rather than the whole herd.”

Creative solutions to real-world problems

The research team is now working with a range of partners and industries to expand the use of the new technology. Connecting with the end-user means that UWE Bristol’s researchers can deliver solutions which meet the needs of real people in society.

"That’s what we love. We see ourselves as problem solvers, bringing novel solutions to real people. It’s been inspirational to see these ideas having a tangible impact".

Professor Richard Luxton

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