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Healthcare potential of SERS technology featured in high profile publications

Glasgow, Scotland, March 2014

Potential healthcare applications of surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) – the detection method behind Renishaw Diagnostics Limited's (RDL) RenDx® technology – have recently been described in two high profile UK publications.  The papers, which have attracted national media interest, highlight the application of SERS technology to the diagnosis of two potentially life threatening diseases.

SERS forms the basis of RDL's RenDx multiplex assay system which, combined with a high throughput polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay, provides a highly sensitive multiplexed screening approach for infectious disease research. A vibrational spectroscopy technique, SERS can detect up to 9 targets from a single sample, significantly more than traditional fluorescence methods. The platform is therefore ideal for testing applications in which a number of different pathogens may be present, sometimes within the same sample, and could aid clinicians in quick, targeted diagnosis, so improving patient care.

In collaboration with Cardiff University's School of Medicine, Wales, RDL has recently published data on the use of the RenDx platform for identification of different types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)1. Differentiation of high and low risk virus genotypes is critical, as persistent high risk HPV infection can cause cervical cancer.  Using the SERS approach, researchers were able to differentiate four unique high risk HPV genotypes, in addition to other high and low risk types, providing a significant advantage over existing assays. Without this type-specific information, healthcare providers are at risk of either overburdening patients at minimal risk of cancer, or under treating high-risk individuals. Providing more comprehensive information should allow the most appropriate treatment of patients. This approach was the subject of a recent article within Chemistry World, the monthly news magazine published by the Royal Society of Chemistry2.

An additional paper published by RDL's collaborators at the University of Strathclyde, Scotland, provides further evidence of the use of SERS in clinical applications3. Based on IP owned by RDL, researchers have developed an assay for the rapid detection of meningitis causing bacteria in cerebral spinal fluid (CSF). Bacterial meningitis can be life threatening, with immunocompromised and young patients being particularly vulnerable. These patients are susceptible to a wide array of infections, so rapid diagnosis and early treatment is crucial. Using a combination of lambda exonuclease and SERS, the group were successful in detecting and quantifying three clinically relevant bacterial pathogens, which could eliminate time consuming culture based methods.  The subject of a recent BBC News article4, the work is a powerful demonstration of the application of SERS to the analysis of clinically relevant targets, and highlights significant advantages over existing approaches.

Rupert Jones

Rupert Jones, General Manager at RDL, said “These papers provide an excellent showcase for the use of our technology in clinical applications. Our work with Cardiff University has emphasised the open access nature of the RenDx technology and the ease in which existing PCR methods can be transferred to a SERS platform. In addition, the media interest in the work of our collaborators at the University of Strathclyde underlines the importance of our R&D efforts on meningitis, one of the disease areas within our development pipeline”.

1.      Anal. Methods, 2014, 6, 1288-1290

2.      Catching viruses associated with cervical cancer

3.      Chem. Sci., 2014, 5, 1030-1040

4.      Lasers used in meningitis tests by Strathclyde University scientists

Enquiries: Jim Greaves Ph.D, Head of Marketing and Business Development (+44 141 5577900)