Last updated July 16, 2018 at 5:19 pm
At the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics, Dr Achini Vidanapathirana, says her latest research in molecular medicine and imaging at the nanoscale level is an interdisciplinary effort with biologists, chemists and physicists, working towards better non-invasive techniques for early detection of cardiovascular diseases.
Using light-based sensors to measure and analyse concentrations of nitric oxide inside blood vessels, her latest project aims to identify particular properties that can be implemented in new biosensor technologies.
“Nitric oxide is such an essential chemical messenger in our body, particularly in the cardiovascular system,’ says Dr Vidanapathirana. “It can be hard to measure, but we do know that if we don’t have enough nitric oxide in our blood vessels, it can lead to conditions like hypertension, heart attacks and preeclampsia. Whereas too much nitric oxide such as seen in inflammation, can lead to a significant drop in blood pressure, which means in worst cases, heart failure, stroke, or septic shock.”
Generated in the endothelium, the lining of blood vessel walls, nitric oxide promotes healthy dilation of arteries and veins, increases blood flow, prevents red blood cells from clumping to form dangerous clots (thrombus) and is the basis of nitroglycerin, a popular treatment for angina.
“Non-invasive or minimally invasive techniques are an exciting new prospect to diagnose and treat cardiovascular diseases,” says Dr Vidanapathirana. “At the Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics, we are creating windows into the body using light, to deliver better diagnostics in a clinical setting.”
Dr Vidanapathirana’s other studies include understanding molecular and cellular changes in endothelial cell aging and in the development of plaques inside blood vessels.
“The collaborations through the Centre of Nanoscale BioPhotonics facilitate the application of novel techniques such as hyperspectral imaging. This involves capturing the natural fluorescence of our body using specialised microscopes to study the cell behaviour and with/without altering the cells’ natural environment.”
These amazing novel technologies are allowing Dr Vidanapathirana to see structural changes to blood vessel walls that have never been seen before, and may be a useful clinical technology in developing future biomarkers for the early diagnosis of heart disease.
“The collaborative environment has brought together expertise from an array of fields of research, which means that we are making progress faster than ever before, and with technologies we may never have considered.”