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Showcase of innovation

last modified Jan 29, 2014 04:45 PM
Showcase of innovation

Jacky Kourieh

The Vice Chancellor’s annual summer drinks reception this year was turned into a showcase of innovation with global potential as students from several university departments shared the secrets of their successes.

Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz said the contributions on show were just a sample of the talent evident in the university’s latest generation of bright young entrepreneurs.

Two students from this department were featured. Stephen Gerrard demonstrated why the Gates Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative had made awards for his JustMilk project. JustMilk offers a potential solution to the transmission of HIV to babies through breast milk. Please follow the links on the right for more information on the nipple shield.

Jacqueline Kourieh's project seeks to develop a holographic pregnancy/fertility test.

Point-of-care testing (POCT) has garnered increasing acceptance thus becoming an ever-growing market. Over-the-counter pregnancy tests represent a substantial proportion of that market and are expected to reach the $1bn mark by 2016.

Consequently, the home pregnancy test landscape has become very competitive and overcrowded especially as it suffers from lack of innovation and patent protection. The current lateral flow immunoassay technology has neared its full potential and an interest in exploiting new technologies has arisen.

We propose the development of a new technology that can outclass the current system and possibly revolutionise POCT: A holographic immunoassay.

Holograms consist of a pattern of microscopic interference fringes that act like a diffraction grating. When illuminated, these fringes reflect at certain resonant wavelengths governed by a derivative of Bragg's equation: λ = 2n∂cosθ, where ∂ is the grating spacing, λ is the wavelength of reflected light, n is the average refractive index of the medium and θ is the angle of incidence. Changing any of these variables would result in a measurable change of reflected λ.

The envisioned pregnancy test will operate by detecting the standard pregnancy biomarker, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) present in urine. The immunoassay will relay results through a simple colour change. The basic idea of operation will stem from the intrinsic properties of a hologram.

We aim to develop a hologram with anti-hCG antibodies securely attached within its volume such that it will reflect light at a basal wavelength λ0. This entity will function as the immunosensor. When a urine sample is applied, hCG (if present) will bind to the anti-hCG antibodies. This antigen-antibody interaction would optimally cause a shift in the reflected wavelength from λ0 to λ due to a change in n and/or ∂, causing a colour change (figure 1).

Figure 1
Figure 1: Principle of holographic pregnancy test.