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Projects. Life and Matter Sciences

The diagnosis of cancer by means of a metabolic nanosensor platform

Lead Researcher:
Ángel Orte Gutiérrez

Research Centre:
Facultad de Farmacia. Universidad de Granada.


Ángel Orte GutiérrezThis 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".

Ángel Orte Gutiérrez

Dr. Orte's research uses new instrumental techniques and the fundamental study of biophysical systems to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying common diseases. He has published more than 50 papers in international scientific journals. For example, Dr. Orte developed a methodology based on powerful microscopy techniques able to detect individual molecules, for the study of protein aggregates associated with neurodegenerative diseases (PNAS 2008). This technique made it possible to understand primordial elements in diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's (Nature 2012, Cell 2012, Nature Struc. Mol. Biol. 2012). Dr. Orte is also working on new nanotechnological sensors, increasing the potential of the fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) for intracellular detection (Chem. Comm. 2011, ACS Nano 2013).

Dr. Orte graduated in Chemistry from the University of Córdoba, and gained his doctorate with a European mention from the University of Granada (2004). For four years (until 2008) he was a postdoctoral researcher in the prestigious University of Cambridge (UK), including an FP6 Marie Curie contract. He is currently Professor of the Pharmacy Faculty in the University of Granada.

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