Changing the Diagnostic Toolkit
Recent Canadian-led developments in the field of sustainable materials research has made significant impact in several key areas including healthcare and sustainable manufacturing. Synthesizing materials that are simple to manufacture yet perform inherently complex tasks will continue to be a major source of cost savings in manufacturing, whether it be in electronics or medical imaging.
In Canada, over 200,000 cancer diagnoses were made in 2017, with 80,000 in Ontario alone. The materials used to build diagnostic medical tools, such as cellular imaging agents, are constantly being updated for improved performance. Included in those updates are improvements in the ways we build these objects, often to reduce manufacturing costs or the environmental footprint of the production process.
Joe Gilroy, Len Luyt and their respective research groups from the Department of Chemistry at Western University, have developed a new fluorescent molecular material capable of staining cells, outside the body for diagnostic imaging and are working toward the development of examples that will selectively stain diseased cells. If successful, this new material may be able to selectively interact with receptors expressed by breast cancer cells to differentiate them from healthy cells. Collaborating with colleagues specializing in bioimaging, the Gilroy lab is looking to expand the use of this new imaging agent which has the potential to save millions of dollars in diagnostic expenses in Ontario alone.
The imaging agent developed by the Gilroy group is much simpler to make than the materials currently used. It costs only $20-$30 per gram to develop, about 2000 times cheaper than current imaging agents that cost up to $50,000 per gram.
Having collaborated with companies like 3M to design new materials for industrial wastewater remediation and Firestone to synthesize stronger materials for automotive tires, the Gilroy group is keen to develop manufacturing techniques as novel as their high-tech materials.