Highly sensitive detection methods for clinically relevant protein biomarkers

GO-Bio 4 – Dr. Thole Züchner – Centre for Biotechnology and Biomedicine (BBZ), University of Leipzig

Zwei Laboranten mit Laborausstattung

Franz Pfluegl - fotolia

Recipient: University of Leipzig
Funding: GO-Bio Phase I (01.08.2011 - 30.11.2014, 1.435.978 Euro)


Disorders such as cancer or myocardial infarction leave tell-tale traces in the body. In many cases, the earlier that these signs – so-called biomarkers – are discovered, the more effective the subsequent medical treatment. In particular in the case of acute ailments such as stroke or myocardial infarction, every minute of diagnosis counts in helping doctors make the right therapy decisions. Current methods for protein detection can only detect protein molecules in relatively high concentrations. Especially in cancer diagnostics, such values ​​are typically reached when the tumour is far advanced, meaning that they are late to appear on the physicians’ radar.

Thole Züchner and his team have developed various methods of protein detection that surpass conventional tests in terms of sensitivity and speed. The technique uses a means of labelling that is based on the phenomenon of ‘time-resolved fluorescence (phosphorescence)’. The resulting fluorescence signal remains illuminated for longer than usual and enables the filtering-out of background noise in the signals. The signal detection utilises customised enzymes and the very latest generation of fluorescence scanners. The combination of these methods as aimed at enabling rapid protein detection (within minutes) as well as highly sensitive protein detection up to the zeptomol range (a few thousand molecules). As a result, the tests require significantly less sample material and it is also possible to do away with the otherwise customary dilution steps. 
The objective of the GO-Bio project is the optimisation of the different protein assays towards use with clinically relevant biomarkers. Ultimately, it is hoped to develop made-to-order kits for customers in the area of clinical diagnostics. A company will be founded at the end of the first funding phase.