unique particle by particle technology is showing promise at detecting nanoparticles
in blood that may prove to be predictors for pre-eclampsia. Professor of Reproductive
Sciences Ian Sargent of the University of Oxford, based at the Women's Centre,
John Radcliffe Hospital is leading a team looking at prediction and early diagnosis
Professor Ian Sargent with his lead researcher, Rebecca Dragovic, and their NanoSight LM10 system.
Professor Sargent comments “There is no other condition in maternity
that so greatly threatens both mother and child. In the UK alone, pre-eclampsia
requires induction of between 7,000 and 12,000 premature births annually and
the condition is common to around 4% of pregnancies. The condition occurs at
any time after mid-pregnancy, is symptomless for most of its course and is relentlessly
progressive. Additionally, it is unpredictable”.
Professor Sargent’s work, supported by the Oxford Biomedical Research
Centre through funding from the Department of Health's NIHR, encompasses a range
of candidate biomarkers. In addition to well-documented blood-based expressed
proteins are microparticles (100 – 1,000nm) and exosomes (30-100nm). These
are nanoscale vesicles released by the placenta and maternal blood and endothelial
cells. Whilst high levels of these particles are observed to coincide with the
onset of pre-eclampsia, their detection is a challenge.
Professor Sargent again: “Our aim is to count and size the microparticles
and exosomes present in the mother’s blood. Ultracentrifugation fails
to separate the smaller exosomes adequately as they have similar density to
the background plasma. Neither can these exosomes be detected with flow cytometry,
which is essentially limited to sizes greater than 500nm. NanoSight, however,
can uniquely detect and then size these disparate populations rapidly and with
NanoSight’s CTO, Dr Bob Carr, comments “These early outcomes are
encouraging, but there is much work to do in improving this methodology. What
is gratifying for NanoSight is to have a user present us with such an exciting
new application opportunity previously unknown to us. This has come about through
some lateral thought on the part of a third party, in this case Professor Peter
Dobson at the University of Oxford’s Begbroke Science Park, who knew of
Ian’s challenges and NanoSight’s detection capability”.