Vibrational spectroscopy of biofluids opens new paths to disease screening and diagnosis

April 9, 2014 by K. Maedefessel-Herrmann
Vibrational spectroscopy of biofluids opens new paths to disease screening and diagnosis

In today's ageing population, resulting in a rising prevalence of chronic diseases such as neurodegeneration, the need for simple, non-invasive methods to diagnose or screen for important medical conditions becomes more and more relevant. Objective and cost-effective approaches capable of diagnosing early-stage disease in point-of-care clinical settings are necessary to facilitate the personalising of therapies to prevent or slow down pathology development.

Vibrational , IR or Raman spectroscopy, could be the base for such kind of approach, as they provide several advantages: Sample preparation is minimal, no reagents are required, the techniques involved are relatively low-cost, data frameworks are available, a profile of spectral alterations can be determined, and the methods are suitable for automation. Yet, in the handling of some biofluids such as blood, there remain challenges to be overcome.

In a review article, a team at Lancaster University led by Pierre Martin-Hirsch explores the evidence supporting the applicability of techniques based on vibrational spectroscopy to generate spectral biomarkers of disease in biofluids such as plasma or serum.

The authors conclude that vibrational spectroscopy, especially attenuated total reflection (ATR)-FTIR spectroscopy, shows a high sensitivity to identify low-level effects that may lead to transformation (a precursor of malignancy). Computational algorithms allow one to classify according to cell type or phenotype, even when diagnosing biofluids. In addition, they open up the possibility to extract discriminating features that may give rise to a new concept of spectral biomarkers. "This inter-disciplinary approach will require a major mind-set change in translational research, which traditionally understands alterations in gene expression or protein levels as biomarker endpoints", Martin-Hirsch and his co-authors state. "Harnessing these methods as in surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) to more conventional approaches might facilitate this transition." They hope, that, once these methods are established within tertiary care, there may be scope for moving into general practice and primary care with the design of hand-held devices that could be used to identify patients requiring referral to tertiary care for more definitive investigations and diagnosis.

Although this concept may seem very far removed from current clinical practice, the authors observed various protocols and designs that may, to their opinion, provide a starting point for such an idea to become a reality. A microfluidic platform hypothesized by the authors could, combined with an appropriate lightsource, revolutionize screening in the 21st century.

Explore further: Advances in field of Raman spectroscopy pave way for new deep non-invasive medical diagnosis methods

More information: A. L Mitchell, K. B Gajjar, G. Theophilou, F. L Martin, P. L Martin-Hirsch, "Vibrational spectroscopy of biofluids for disease screening or diagnosis: translation from the laboratory to a clinical setting," J. Biophotonics 7:3-4, 167-179 (2014); DOI

Related Stories

New forensic technique for analysing lipstick traces

August 8, 2013

( —A study by forensic scientists at the University of Kent has established a new way of identifying which brand of lipstick someone was wearing at a crime scene without removing the evidence from its bag, thereby ...

Raman pixel by pixel

August 9, 2013

New data processing protocol enables feature-based recognition of Surface-enhanced Raman spectra for intracellular molecule probing of biological targets. It relies on locally detecting the most relevant spectra to retrieve ...

Molecular pathology via IR and Raman spectral imaging

December 10, 2013

IR and Raman spectral imaging can distinguish between tissue types, disease types and stages, and even identify the primary tumors from spectral patterns observed in metastatic cells. Furthermore, these techniques can be ...

CARS microscopy on its way to clinical translation

January 10, 2014

Coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering microscopy offers noninvasive label-free imaging, high sensitivity, and chemical specificity, which makes it an attractive alternative to histopathology for diagnosis. For clinical translation, ...

Recommended for you

Scientists create revolutionary material to clean oil spills

November 30, 2015

Deakin University scientists have manufactured a revolutionary material that can clean up oil spills, which could save the earth from potential future disasters such as any repeat of the 2010 Gulf Coast BP disaster that wreaked ...

A new form of real gold, almost as light as air

November 25, 2015

Researchers at ETH Zurich have created a new type of foam made of real gold. It is the lightest form ever produced of the precious metal: a thousand times lighter than its conventional form and yet it is nearly impossible ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.