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At UCD, we create, develop and characterise molecules and nanoparticles, including fluorophores.  These compounds serve as novel tags for biomarkers, targeted biomarkers, and will ultimately lead to point-of-care diagnostics.

New class of near-infrared (NIR) fluorescent imaging agents and nanoparticles
Lead PI: Prof. Donal O’Shea
The use of in vitro and in vivo fluorescence imaging has become an increasingly common tool for gaining an understanding of the functioning of biological systems at a molecular level. Most of the existing fluorescent agents have operational light input/output wavelengths in the 300-650 nm wavelength range. These spectral regions suffer from strong interference due to background absorbance and auto-fluorescence from endogenous chromophores. The use of longer wavelength near-infrared (beyond 720 nm) light circumvents these problems, allowing for better resolution, greater penetration of biological tissue and a reduction of light induced cellular damage. Prof. Donal O’Shea’s group has recently described the synthesis of a series of visible red and near-infrared fluorescent probes based upon the BF2 chelated tetraarylazadipyrromethene structure, which have the potential to act as analyte-activated fluorescent imaging agents. On-going research is focused on tailoring of this class of imaging agent for the generation of analyte responsive NIR fluorescent bio-conjugates, which would allow for targeted real-time in vivo imaging. In addition, synthetically controlled functionalization of nanoparticles with our fluorophore class has allowed the O’Shea group to develop the first cellular activated off-to-on responsive nanoparticle which switches fluorescence on only when taken up into cells.


Biomarkers for cancer diagnostics
Lead PI: Prof. William Gallagher
The identification and validation of candidate biomarkers of breast cancer and melanoma is a major focus of Prof. Gallagher's research work, with particular emphasis on translation of transcriptomic and proteomic datasets into clinically relevant assays. In addition, his team utilises lentiviral-based approaches to investigate the functional relevance of candidate tumour progression-associated genes at both in vitro and in vivo levels, as well as engages in preclinical evaluation of novel anti-cancer agents.


Flow-enhanced non-linear magnetophoresis (f-NLM)
Lead PI: Prof. Gil U Lee
Early detection of infectious diseases could greatly enhance the quality of medical care and limit the spread of emerging diseases. Thus, there is a need for rapid, sensitive, and inexpensive point-of-care sensors that are capable of identifying multiple pathogens in complex samples such as blood. The Lee group has focused on identifying magnetic particle pathogen complexes through magnetophoretic separation. Magnetophoresis is a separation process in which both hydrodynamic and magnetic fields are used to separate a magnetic microparticle from an aqueous solution. We have demonstrated magnetophoretic sensing is capable of detecting type 2 Dengue virus at a concentration < 103 virus per ml in serum, which in principle could allow this deadly disease to be accurately diagnosed when symptoms first become evident.