Technology experts in Waterford are bidding to tackle one of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer using miniature, implantable devices.
Telecoms experts at Waterford Institute of Technology’s Telecommunications, Software and Systems Group (TSSG) have partnered with universities worldwide on the potentially life-changing GLADIATOR project.
Together, they are developing miniature devices that interface with engineered cells, bio-nanomachines, to detect and treat cancer from inside the brain.
Engineering cells into bio-nanomachines involves the use of synthetic biology to design specific functions in living cells and the secretion of molecules that can be used to detect and treat the tumour.
The devices, when implanted in the brain, will be controlled from an external wireless device that will collect information, which should enable a solution for treating Glioblastoma Multiforme, a type of brain cancer that can kill within weeks.
Director of Research at TSSG, Dr Sasitharan Balasubramaniam, said:
“The comprehensive theranostic solution for brain malignancies is set to be a significant medical breakthrough.
“Currently, highly complex malignancies such as brain tumours have a very grim prognosis, despite recent progress in their treatment and management,” he added.
GLADIATOR’s mission is to change cancer monitoring and therapy, TSSG’s Dr Michael Barros said.
“Surgery for this form of brain cancer is very traumatic as the cancer is embedded deep within the brain.
GLADIATOR aims to use wireless signals to control implanted bio-nanomachine engineered cells within the brain for sensing and treatment, and to send signals back to an external computing device that will determine the next best course of action.
“Moreover, the innovative biological and nanotechnology-based innovations, development methods, computational and analytical tools advanced through GLADIATOR, are expected to have significant economic impact, since they can enter into particular market segments as indicated by global market projections and underlying drivers.
“The project team will also examine the circuitry design, the power and communication requirements etc of these tiny implantable devices and how to interface to the bio-nanomachines that will interact with cancer,” Dr Barros added.
The €6 million Horizon 2020-funded project which is set to substantially improve patient prognosis and prolong their survival underway with the 4-year long project seeing ICT experts at TSSG working with six other vibrant academic centres across Cyprus (University of Cyprus), Finland (University of Oulu), Norway (Norwegian University of Science and Technology), Germany (Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering), USA (Michigan State Univerity) and Japan (Osaka University) and a nano-biotechnology SME EPOS-IASIS from Cyprus.