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The University of Southampton
Institute for Life Sciences

Transfer & Transport

Cutting-edge technology

Devices and Engineering

A successful device for chemical or biological sensing requires first an interesting biological function or reaction that needs to be detected. A chemical probe or a 'transducer' is then employed to convert the reaction signal to a result using a technology platform. The platform is itself composed of numerous sub-systems: imaging, fluid handling, data acquistion and analysis. Microfluidics is ideally suited for uses in devices.

This is the science and technology of systems that process or manipulate small (10-9 to 10-18 litres) amounts of fluids, using channels with dimensions at the width of a human hair. Such systems are miniaturised versions of large chemical, physical and molecular sensors. They have low power usage, small sample and reagent volumes and can be used for in situ and point-of-care.

At the University of Southampton, there is extensive expertise in all areas of Devices and Engineering ranging from probe synthesis to complex system integration. Examples include:

Scorpion probes invented by Prof. Tom Brown as chemical tool in collaboration with AstraZeneca. They are self-reporting primers with improved simplicity, kinetics, sensitivity and specificity compared to other real-time PCR probes. The probes have now clinical approval to use mutation diagnosis of KRAS and EGFR genes.

A miniaturised version of a PCR instrument with integrated detection and analysis was developed as part of the EU project LABONFOIL. This involved Prof. Hywel Morgan, Dr. Tsaloglou and Dr Mowlem. The system included disposal cartridges with preserved reagents. Nucleic acid sequence-based amplification of RNA from toxic plankton K. brevis was demonstrated. More recent projects include an NIHR-funded project in collaboration with Sharp Labs of Europe and Public Health England. Recombinase polymerase amplification (RPA), an isothermal equivalent to qPCR is being miniaturised in nanolitre volumes on a hand-held device for diagnostics at the point-of-care.

On single DNA molecule level, Dr. Tracy Melvin is the principal investigator of a BBSRC-funded grant that focusses on investigating new ways to interrogate individual double-stranded DNA sequences. This uses novel oligonucleotide probes that associate with specific DNA sequences as triplexes.

The emerging community of nucleic acid Devices and Engineering has recently formed the Devices & Nucleic acids Network. This aims to connect technology developers and nucleic acid researchers across UoS and industry. Local events will be organised to connect local stakeholders from industry & healthcare with the University science and engineering community.

For more information, please contact Dr Jonathan Watts or Dr Maria-Nefeli Tsaloglou.

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