Early detection of diseases and monitoring of disease progression and treatment require rapid, sensitive and reliable tests that can detect certain biomarkers. The development of these products requires a multi-disciplinary approach concerning specific biomarker recognition, implementation on a detection platform and prototyping, as well as analytical verification in a (pre-)clinical setting. For point-of-care tests, as they are known, nanotechnology is often used to improve the sensitivity of the assay.

VITO has an advanced technology and knowledge platform, which can be used for the development of such innovative tests. More specifically, we focus on applications based on a disease-related protein, DNA or glycan biomarkers present in liquid biopsies, with a special focus on extracellular vesicles.

Extracellular vesicles are microscopic particles released by both healthy and diseased cells. They contain a variety of molecules (proteins, DNA/RNA, lipids), originating from the cell that produced them, and they are found in all bodily fluids (blood, urine, etc.). EVs circulate throughout the body, They mainly function as ‘messengers’ between cells and, if a person is ill, an EV will have a different composition due to the presence of different or mutated biomarkers. If these markers are known and recognised, it is possible to use blood or urine samples to determine what condition a patient is suffering from, even if he or she is not yet displaying any symptoms of that disease.