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Current Research Projects

Developing molecular probes for bio-imaging applications

1. Ratiometric optical probes for uric acid

Uric acid is present as its sodium salt . It is ubiquitous in cells and is excreted by the kidneys by humans. It has long been associated with gout and in the formation of kidney stones, and it has been implicated in the progression of certain heart diseases more recently. Measurements of uric acid in serum may reveal key information on cancer progression.










Potential applications:

  • To enable the creation of rapid ‘point of care’ testing for uric acid in personalised medicine, replacing slower enzyme-based methods.

2. Optical and magnetic resonance temperature probes


The measurement of temperature occurs in more than two thirds of all sensors worldwide. Up till now, it has proved difficult to obtain real time temperature maps inside cells or in vivo. The research team is making and evaluating the performance of luminescent probes based on europium emission, as well as creating rare earth coordination complexes to be used as imaging agents for MRI analyses. The project involves collaboration with Prof. Kannie Chan at the City University of Hong Kong and with Prof. Peter Harvey at the University of Nottingham in the UK.





​Potential applications:


  • To allow academic/pre-clinical researchers to use rare earth complexes to allow the creation of temperature maps in animal models, highlighting disease progression or altered metabolism.

  • To permit the creation of temperature maps for cells, which have the potential of reflecting pathological changes in the body.



3. Chiral probes


Many chemical molecules have left and right-handed chiral configurations, like human hands. The two versions often have very different biochemical behaviour. As all proteins, nucleic acids and sugars are chiral and usually exist in Nature in one “handedness”, the research team is creating rare earth probes to detect the chirality of these molecules and their modifications. The project involves collaboration with groups in Durham University, UK.




Potential applications:


  • Be adapted for use in labelling for societal security applications, such as credit cards/ID cards/bank notes.

  • Be used to monitor chemical modifications of key bioactive peptides and proteins as they undergo chemical change in vitro and in cellulo.

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