A wealth of information resides in the molecules that circulate within our bodily fluids. As our cells, tissues, and organs undergo changes brought about by disease, nutrition, aging, and environment, the expression and translation of genomic-based processes result in modulation of the presence and concentration of biomarker molecules. CGD members at the IGB and the Holonyak Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory (HMNTL) focus on identifying these biomarkers, developing technologies to detect, diagnose, and monitor disease more rapidly, cheaply and effectively, aided by a powerful multidisciplinary platform for translating innovations in molecular diagnostics.
For every health condition including cancer, infectious disease, neurological disease, cardiac disease, and chronic stress, patterns are emerging that can be quantified and longitudinally monitored. Information available from molecular biomarkers show promise for developing highly personalized information profiles that can be used for disease diagnosis, health status monitoring, therapy selection, and intervention effectiveness monitoring that is minimally invasive, inexpensive, highly multiplexed, and quantitative.
The inherent limitations of genomic sequencing in terms of laboratory workflow, data analysis complexity, sample-to-answer time, and cost make it unsuitable for many clinical applications. Using a team science approach combining the talents of engineers, biochemists, data scientists, biologists, and clinicians, the CGD is creating new technology platforms for molecular biomarker detection and quantification, including biosensor microscopy, photonic metamaterials called photonic crystals, liquid biopsies, and novel biochemistry methods that recognize target analytes with a high degree of precision.
Simple, rapid detection methods, as well as inexpensive and compact detection instruments, are providing pathways toward point-of-care detection systems, whether desktop-based, portable systems deployable in medical offices, or handheld pocket-size devices for self-testing. Initially focused on pursuing detection of cancer biomarkers and pathogens, the CGD research portfolio has grown to encompass technology platforms broadly applicable to scenarios including animal health, maternal health, food safety, and nutrition, and established close working partnerships with Mayo Clinic, Stanford Medical School, Mt. Sinai Hospital, Huntsman Cancer Institute, and Carle Hospital.
The CGD is an integral part of other campus efforts that include the Cancer Center at Illinois, the Center for Pathogen Diagnostics, the Chan-Zuckerberg BioHub, and the Personalized Nutrition Initiative, and has led outreach activities that engage audiences from middle school students through senior citizens to learn about the technologies and societal impact of biosensors and genomic diagnosis.