The CSIR biophotonics research team will be presenting nine papers on laser-based HIV point-of-care diagnostics at the Society of Photo-optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) West Conference in San Francisco this week.

Dubbed the world’s biggest optics and photonics conference, the annual event is expected to attract over 20,000 delegates to learn about the latest research and find the latest devices and systems driving technology markets, including state-of-the art medical technologies.

“We are excited to be presenting our research findings on laser-driven label-free approaches of detecting HIV-1, which is the most widespread type worldwide, in living biological cells,” said CSIR research group leader for biophotonics, Dr Patience Mthunzi-Kufa.

“While laser technology is used in the detection and treatment of cancer cells, it is rarely used as a technological tool to investigate HIV-infected cells,” continued Dr Mthunzi-Kufa.

One of the research papers, written and prepared for oral presentation by CSIR senior researcher in biophotonics, Dr Saturnin Ombinda-Lemboumba, and co-authored by Mthunzi-Kufa, will focus on the novel tag-free detection of HIV-1 infected and uninfected cells via Raman and transmission spectroscopy coupled with optical trapping, which are techniques used to improve the reliability of data when cells are being analysed.

Compared to gold-standard HIV-1 diagnostics such as the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and nucleic acid based tests that require the use of labels and substrates respectively for the first time in HIV research, coupling of laser trapping with Raman spectroscopy allows a non-invasive immobilisation and label-free analysis of single infected cells.

“This optical system essentially allows grabbing single cells at will and analysing their chemical fingerprint by merely shining laser light of varying wavelengths and carefully structured beams on them,” said Dr Ombinda-Lemboumba.

This detection technique, compared to the labelled detection technique, is more likely to provide accurate results within a short period of time at a cost-effective rate, says Dr Ombinda-Lemboumba.

“Addressing issues of accuracy, cost and time were important for the purpose of this research. In light of HIV/AIDS being a serious disease claiming the lives of many in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, it is important that our research addresses the challenges of the day,” added Dr Mthunzi-Kufa.

An invention disclosure and a South African provisional patent for this work have been filed.

Other research papers to be presented at the SPIE West Conference by the team are:

  • In-vitro photo-translocation of antiretroviral drug delivery into TZMbl cells (Oral presentation), Rudzani Malabi, Sello L. Manoto, Saturnin Ombinda-Lemboumba and Patience Mthunzi-Kufa.
  • Photo-transfection and differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells using femtosecond laser pulses (Oral presentation), Lebogang S. Thobakgale, Sello L. Manoto, Saturnin Ombinda-Lemboumba, Malik Maaza and Patience Mthunzi-Kufa.
  • Real-time Raman spectroscopy for the characterisation of biochemical changes in differentiated embryonic stem cells (Poster presentation), Lebogang S. Thobakgale, Sello L. Manoto, Saturnin Ombinda-Lemboumba, Malik Maaza and Patience Mthunzi-Kufa.
  • Investigation of HIV-1 infected cells using laser trapping Raman spectroscopy technique (Oral Presentation), Saturnin Ombinda-Lemboumba, Masixole Y. Lugongolo, Lebogang S. Thobakgale, Sello L. Manoto and Patience Mthunzi-Kufa.
  • Targeted femtosecond laser driven drug delivery within HIV-1 infected cells: in-vitro study (Oral presentation), Charles Maphanga, Saturnin Ombinda-Lemboumba, Sello L. Manoto, and Patience Mthunzi-Kufa.
  • Pros and cons of characterising an optical translocation setup (Poster presentation). Charles Maphanga, Rudzani Malabi, Saturnin Ombinda-Lemboumba.
  • Could low level laser therapy and highly active antiretroviral therapy lead to complete eradication of HIV-1 in vitro? (Oral presentation), Masixole Y. Lugongolo, Sello L. Manoto, Saturnin. Ombinda-Lemboumba and Patience. Mthunzi-Kufa.
  • Photodynamic activity of zinc monocarboxyphenoxy phthalocyanine (ZnMCPPc) conjugated to gold silver (AuAg) nanoparticles in melanoma cancer cells (Poster presentation). Sello L. Manoto, David Oluyinka Oluwole, Saturnin Ombinda-Lemboumba, Patience Mthunzi-Kufa and Tebello Nyokong.
  • Phototoxic effects of free phthalocyanine and phthalocyanine conjugated to gold nanoparticles for targeted photodynamic therapy of melanoma cancer (Oral presentation). Sello L. Manoto, David Oluyinka Oluwole, Saturnin Ombinda-Lemboumba, Patience Mthunzi-Kufa and Tebello Nyokong. (Oral presentation).

The pioneering CSIR biophotonics team plans to attract commercial partners, producing technology demonstrators, publishing in high impact journals and strengthening partnerships with international laboratories.

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