micro-biolytics GmbH – industrial application of the AquaSpec™ technology
Spectroscopic methods have been used for many decades in scientific research to obtain a wealth of information about chemical substances, substance mixtures and their reaction processes. Micro-biolytics GmbH from Esslingen have successfully developed a spectroscopic method that combines innovative technologies. The method enables the highly accurate and sensitive measurement of aqueous samples.
The patented AquaSpec™ method is based on infrared-spectroscopic detection of MIR (mid-infrared) light in transmission (i.e. light that goes through a medium). As almost all substances interact with infrared radiation, the AquaSpec™ technology is able to capture all relevant information in a sample (including large molecules such as proteins and smaller ones such as cholesterol) simultaneously during a single measurement.
Even complex sample mixtures (e.g. biological samples) can be classified and quantitatively and qualitatively analysed using modern computer-assisted analysis methods. Rather than simply receiving complex spectra that require further analysis, the user receives data directly related to the issue he or she wants to resolve, fully processed and analysed by micro-biolytics’ system. The data are then far easier to interpret.
Toxicity tests without animals
There are many substances whose chemical structure and effect on the human body is unknown; analyses have to be carried out in order to find out whether a substance has an effect on the cell metabolism. In cooperation with CETICS Healthcare Technologies GmbH from Esslingen and the Institute of Biochemistry at the University of Stuttgart, micro-biolytics is developing an in vitro toxicity assay that can cut down the number of animals used in chemical toxicity tests. The company’s in vitro toxicity assay differentiates between toxic and non-toxic, and classifies the substance under investigation into subclasses that provide information about the degree and type of toxicity of a certain substance.
Known toxic substances are used to establish a database with spectral stress patterns; unknown substances can then be screened for these patterns and grouped accordingly. Temporal and concentration-dependent information can be used to make statements about the toxic dose of a substance. “The method has the considerable advantage that we can extract all information exclusively from the supernatant of the culture medium without disrupting the cells. In general, all samples can be analysed in their native state. This means that the rather time-consuming preparation of samples is not necessary,” says Ralf Masuch, CSO of micro-biolytics GmbH. In future, the test will be distributed by micro-biolytics GmbH’s partner CETICS Healthcare Technologies as well as being offered as a service if required.
In vitro diagnostics of diseases
Disease-specific features manifest themselves in characteristic patterns in body fluids such as blood serum. These patterns are very similar to fingerprints. Disease-specific features can be identified using the AquaSpec™ technology which compares them against a database containing a large number of empirical spectroscopic datasets. This eliminates the need for frequent preparative laboratory examinations. Disease-relevant markers are extracted from this wide range of spectral information by comparing the spectra of healthy and diseased volunteers and recording the observed differences. The databases are based on measurements of several thousand samples, which enables reliable differentiation between individual and disease-relevant variations in the body fluids investigated, resulting in a unique, disease-specific pattern.
This makes reliable diagnosis of a broad range of diseases possible, without requiring knowledge of the exact causes of the disease. The need for time-consuming and costly research is therefore eliminated. Another advantage of the method is its ability to digitally record disease patterns. However, the development of these disease-specific patterns is relatively complex and needs to be represented in a multi-dimensional space.
Micro-biolytics GmbH develops the patterns and sells them to its clients as an “application”. The applications are stored on an Internet server and can be downloaded shortly after by customers with an AquaSpec™ analyser (similar to an app store).
Benefit for the pharmaceutical industry
The pharmaceutical industry attaches great importance to producing high quality drugs, the identification of potential drugs (screening) as well as long-term studies for assessing the stability of drug formulations. In the drug discovery process, the advantage of the AquaSpec™ technology is that it can capture even the smallest changes (such as pH-related effects and conformational changes of molecules). Used in drug screening processes, the AquaSpec™ method delivers detailed information about a substance’s potential mechanism of action, for example by recognizing the relevant functional groups of the substance under investigation. High-throughput measurements of up to 100 samples with volumes of only a few microlitres can be carried out in an hour.
Excellent quality food
Consumers demand excellent quality food. However, controlling and assuring product quality is a major problem in terms of the time and the cost of analyses. The AquaSpec™ method also provides the food industry with vital results: almost all ingredients can be analysed, this includes the determination and monitoring of critical concentration limits and the minimum content of ingredients (e.g. fat in milk). AquaSpec™ also detects unwanted ingredients, including bacterial contaminants and toxins that are harmful for human health.
With AquaSpec™, micro-biolytics GmbH has a versatile measurement tool that is characterised by short measurement times, by the fact that reagents and sample preparation are not required and by the digitalisation of the results and the high information content of the measurement data. All of this adds up to an alternative to traditional analysis methods for a broad range of industries.
Verena Geßler and Ralf Masuch
73728 Esslingen am Neckar
Tel.: +49 (0)711-901211-200