Project type: Innovation

Inventors: Dr. Ljiljana Fruk, Chemical Engineering & Biotechnology

The inventors have developed a material made of organic dyes which moves selectively in the body to areas of aged (senescent) cells, allowing in vivo imaging of the location and number of these cells. 

The material is formulated as a nanocapsule which can fluoresce but also has a strong photoacoustic signal, and is therefore suitable for photoacoustic tomography (PAT). This tool has been successfully demonstrated in mice studies and now the inventors are planning the next steps for their research and product development. 

Treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy are efficient ways of treating cancer, but they also often result in some of the cells going into an aged, senescent state. Such a cell state can lead to infections, development of secondary and metastatic cancer, and result in cancer recurrence. Selective removal of senescent cells has been shown to improve the healthspan and lifespan, and has multiple beneficial effects leading to regeneration of the tissue.

Similarly to treated cancer tissue, wounds also contain a large number of senescent cells as well as the tissue that has been exposed to infections. To remove senescent cells, more than 26 companies around the world are working on the development of senolytics – this is expected to have a huge market value, particularly as senescence is a hallmark of ageing as well. However, there is currently no in vivo imaging technique to track if these treatments are working, or in general, to measure the size of the senescent cell burden in patients. 

The question for the i-Team is to identify and analyse the various possible uses for this technology. This includes short-term markets such as research markets where the technology could be used relatively quickly, as well as longer-term markets such as medical diagnostics and even treatments where it would take longer to meet the regulatory requirements.