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The diagnosis of cancer by means of a metabolic nanosensor platform

17th national competition for scientific and technical research

Metabolism and cancer

Senior Researcher : Ángel Orte Gutiérrez

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Research Centre or Institution : Facultad de Farmacia. Universidad de Granada


This project has the aim of creating a nanotechnology platform for the metabolic diagnosis of cancer by detecting the status of different metabolic cells, using fluorescent nanosensors and advanced techniques of multidimensional fluorescence microscopy. The metabolic reprogramming of cancerous cells, which base their metabolism on aerobic glycolysis rather than mitochondrial oxidative metabolism, gives rise to alterations in the level of lactic acid and the concentration of protons in the mitochondrial matrix. Our team has a model of tumoral evolution that differentiates the metabophenotype of cancerous stem cells, or the cells which start tumours, from tumoral cells in more differentiated stages, as well as the metabophenotype according to oncogenic capacity and cellular aggressiveness.

This project will design intramitochondrial fluorescent nanosensors that make it possible to discriminate between different metabolic states, quantifying the changes in the pH of the mitochondrial matrix associated with them. To date, methods based on confocal fluorescence microscopy suffered from many complications and systematic errors which hindered obtaining quantitative data and gave results that were of questionable reliability. The diagnostic platform that we plan to use will use an advanced multidimensional microscopic technique, fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM), which largely resolves many of the disadvantages of conventional methods. This project will be able to contribute to the development, in the midterm, of new tumoral diagnostic strategies backed up by discriminatory power at a quantitative metabolic level, opening the door to a metabolic diagnostic platform for cancer that could go on to be used in tissue diagnosis or even "in vivo".

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