InNaSERSS is a multinational research project funded throught the FP7 ERA-NET Euronanomed II initiative.
Among present unmet clinical needs, the monitoring of patients affected by acute myeloid leukemia (AML) represents a relevant issue. In these patients after chemotherapy there is still the possibility that residual malignant cells, undetectable at morphologic examination, are present in the bone marrow. This condition is known as “minimal residual disease” (MRD) and is connected with the high number of relapses (30%) for this disease. Several studies have shown that blood levels of WT1 can be used as a biomarker in acute leukemia at diagnosis to predict MRD and determine patient response to treatment (Rosenfeld et al, 2003). The most common methods for investigating WT1 is PCR, that is attractive due to its sensitivity in targeting specific genes. However, in normal bone marrow and peripheral blood and in patients with MRD, the WT1 expression is extremely low and difficult to detect even by quantitative RT-PCR.
The project’s aim is to design and develop a new Surface Enhanced Raman Spectroscopy (SERS) based diagnostic platform for the ultra-sensible detection of WT1 gene. The inherent features of Raman-SERS techniques are appealing for this aim as they will allow a fast detection from small amount of sample.
Nanohole arrays are one of the emerging tools in bio-sensing because of their exceptional optical properties. Several articles reported that these structures are able to enhance Raman scattering with an effectiveness similar to the one of aggregates of nanoparticles but with a reproducibility otherwise difficult to achieve. Their use will bring to a robustness and reliability difficult to achieve with other approaches. Moreover, nanohole arrays can be produced at low cost and high numbers by plasma technique and colloidal lithography.
The detection assay will be then integrated with a new compact Raman reader based on SWIFTS technology expanding the scope of this approach where device portability is a plus. The use of SWIFTS will allow to build a low-price, portable Raman spectrometer with performances similar to the actual bench top research systems.
The merging of these innovative tools for the creation of a new point of care diagnostic platform will contribute towards the development of a more personalized medicine through a sensitive and specific test of detection of disease biomarkers in a real perspective of industrial translatability.