Scientists have recently discovered that a wider range of materials can be used to make transducers than previously thought if they are miniaturised down to the nanoscale. In fact, it has been shown that the natural electrical activity of the body can be harnessed in biological membranes and converted into mechanical energy.
Dr Mather's fellowship is centred on the design and manufacture of nano-sized transducers made from phospholipids, the main type of fat found in the membrane of biological cells. A key part of this will be forming the phospholipids into bubbles called liposomes to take advantage of their acoustic properties a crucial element for using transducers as a means for testing. The research will look at different ways of increasing the power of the acoustic signal produced by modifying the composition, shape and size of the liposome.
These transducers will be used to develop a biological micro imaging system that will be able to produce diagnostic images of the body. By tagging the lipsomes with specific biological molecules, the transducers will also be able to target certain cell types, enabling them to act as beacons to locate cells in the body.
The final part of the research will focus on testing the capabilities of the new imaging system on tissue phantoms that mimic the human body, particularly in detecting tumours, monitoring electrical activity in the brain and tracking cells used in therapies. The aim is to have a working prototype of the system by 2016.
Dr Mather added: "The success of this work could hail a new type of organic medical imaging technology that could easily be used in a clinical setting at the point of care. This would have a significant impact in healthcare and enable new therapies to become available for clinical use and contribute to the health and wealth of society."
|Contact: Emma Thorne|
University of Nottingham