Lab News

Canadian researchers break new ground in nanotechnology diagnostics

By Malcolm Flanagan   (Link)   (Animal Pharm - Agri Business Intelligence)

Published: 11 May 2017 02:24 PM

Researchers at a Canadian laboratory have been attracting commercial interest from animal health companies for their work in detecting livestock diseases using super-fast nano-biotechnology diagnostics.

The five-year-old BioNano Laboratory at the University of Guelph in Ontario was created "to bring rapid real-time solutions to the animal health and food safety sectors".

Speaking to Animal Pharm from Guelph, Professor Neethirajan, who gained his doctorate at the University of Manitoba and has worked at the US Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said his research complex is specializing in the development of nano-biosensing platforms for animal health diagnostics and food safety.

Prof Neethirajan said the work of his research complex "is bringing down the time to results in diagnosing animal health from several days to minutes". This is also reducing the costs associated with shipping the samples from farms by enabling the producers and farmers to do testing on the farm at the point of care.

"The speed with which we can enable the real-time transmission of animal health data to the end users and the inspection agencies is the mandate of our BioNano Laboratory research projects. Through development of instruments, nano-biosensing platforms and communication tools we strive to achieve our stated goals of rapidly speeding up veterinary diagnostics," said Prof Neethirajan.

"We are developing tools and nano-biosensing platforms for early and incipient detection of foot and mouth disease, bluetongue epizootics, avian influenza, metabolic and Johne's disease of cows, bovine respiratory diseases, brucellosis and swine enteric coronavirus diseases. We are also focused on the development of wearable biosensors for smart farmed animal health management. At the same time, we are investigating biofilms for antifouling applications, food for health themed projects and development of biopharmaceuticals."

Recently, the BioNano Laboratory received funding from the 'supporting evidence-based interventions program' of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. This was made possible through support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Prof Neethirajan said IDEXX, Zoetis, Elanco and Danish dairy specialist DeLaval have expressed strong interest in the work of the Guelph team and their ongoing research and development projects. BioNano Laboratory is looking for collaborations with industries and companies that would help to translate and expedite the research results from the academic laboratory to real world applications

Transforming technology

"Nanoscience is transforming new technology into reality. The BioNano Laboratory takes a progressive stance in the agri-food sector by bringing advanced nanotechnology directly to the issue of animal health. We use a pro-active strategy involving precision livestock farming. This is an integrated system of mobile phones and internet tracks which transmits real-time data obtained from tiny, non-invasive biomarkers," said Prof Neethirajan.

"These can detect subclinical signs of animal disease at the molecular level. This sustained practice will give farmers the ability to better monitor the wellness and productivity of their flocks and herds. Nano biosensing platforms will detect infectious diseases in livestock prior to the expression of clinical signs and will reduce the time to obtain results on-farm in a real time fashion.

"The BioNano Laboratory will provide tools for early warning systems for smart livestock health management, and will contribute to global food security, health security and the economic well-being of those whose livelihoods are derived from animal production."

The Guelph researchers are working on technology that allows dairy farmers to detect metabolic diseases that affect milk production, as well as a rapid avian flu biosensor detection kit, and an efficient sex hormone detector for livestock.

The BioNano Laboratory has over 1,100 square feet of research space and utilizes state-of the-art equipment and instrumentation for projects such as cell culture experiments and live cell and nanoscale imaging. Such an environment can foster expertise and advancement in areas such as nanomaterial synthesis, biosensor development, microbiology, and prototype design and validation. The complex has more than 50 staff including 15 scientists.

Nanotechnology strategies

In 2013, a Swedish scientist said nanotechnology can be used to make veterinary medicines more efficient by targeting delivery systems for optimum impact. David Carlander of the Brussels-based Nanotechnologies Association said targeted delivery systems could reduce the amount of veterinary medicines used in treating diseases. This would lead to healthier animals, fewer residues in food and potentially shorter withholding periods.

Mr Carlander said nanotechnology could allow a veterinary medicine to pass unaffected through the gastrointestinal tract to the animal’s systematic circulation and then be released at the desired location.

He claimed nanotechnology could assist in the development of new antimicrobial treatments as an alternative to conventional antibiotics. In addition, he indicated nanoparticles could be used as adjuvants for vaccination purposes whilst 'bio bullets' made of photopolymerized PEG hydrogels could be used to vaccinate wild animals.

Just recently, a Danish water treatment specialist CM Aqua Technologies said it believed it is making a breakthrough in treating sea lice, bacteria and pathogens in marine aquaculture complexes. The Farum-headquartered company is working on a nanotechnology bubble system which it says could improve the health of salmon and help remove deadly sea lice from the skin of the fish.

The firm is developing its 'Nano1System' which creates a magnetic field inside fish cages and generates intense strings of extremely small bubbles. The firm claims this process purifies water and removes sea lice and pollutants and takes them to the surface. The equipment floats at the bottom of marine fish cages. It can also be used in fresh water aquaculture complexes.


Dr. Andrew Peters, Director of the Supporting Evidence Based Interventions program (SEBI) and professor at the University of Edinburgh visited the Bionano lab research team on April 25, 2017.  Upon formal introductions, the postdoctoral scientists and students of the bionano group gave presentations to Dr. Peters on various topics of development of nano-biosensing platforms for animal health and food safety.  This was followed by a presentation by Dr. Peters about his leadership and initiatives in the SEBI project funded by Gates Foundation. SEBI funded Bionano laboratory to help assess new technology interventions for development and transfer to target geographies.  Upon completion of the presentations, Professor Peters were given a lab tour and building tour in the School of Engineering as well as in the University of Guelph campus. 






The Onion’s perceived health benefits   

Article published in Better Farming Magazine (link)

 It’s time for farmers to think about planting more onions, says a University of Guelph researcher who is spearheading a new method to extract the humble vegetable’s most healthful ingredient.

   Suresh Neethirajan, principal investigator in the university’s Bionanotechnology Laboratory, says his engineering team’s research shows quercetin extractions from certain onions can kill colon cancer cells.    

   Quercetin is a flavonoid, an antioxidant thought to produce an anti-inflammatory effect and to benefit immune systems. Neethirajan says the university’s extraction process uses superheated high-pressure, steam-based water technology. Other techniques leave behind chemical residues that make extractions unfit to use as food additives or in biopharmaceutical compounds.

   The university’s process doesn’t leave any harmful residues behind. The approach is ready to be taken into commercial production, he says. “We have established a proof of concept. We have a framework,” says Neethirajan.

   Jason Verkaik, who grows onions at his Carron Farms Ltd. in the Holland Marsh and is chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association, estimates Ontario producers grow 7,000-plus acres of onions. These vegetables supply the domestic market for most of the year and are also exported along the Eastern Seaboard. He says demand for onions has remained constant but will grow as Ontario populations with South and Southeast Asian and Middle and Far East roots grow.

Bionano lab trained high school student garners major awards in the national level science fair competition. Bionanolab of the University of Guelph has been very active in providing research internships to High School Students in South West Ontario. Last year in 2015/2016, Lucas penny – a Grimsby High School Student won several awards through research training from the bionanolab mentorship. For the current academic year 2016-2017 – Jack Mogus, a grade 11 student of Garth Webb Public School in Oakville, Ontario is the science champion.

Jack Mogus has been working on a project titled "G-Glove - An Environmentally and Cost Effective Alternative to Present Day Surgical Gloves".  Smart gloves that makes use of nanotechnology and graphene based nanomaterials was developed, and tested by Jack under the guidance of Professor Neethirajan. Infusing graphene into a guayule rubber glove enhances its puncture resistance, allowing it to be re-used and sterilized multiple times without damaging its quality, and eliminates the need to double gloves for surgical operations (reduces glove wastage).

Jack has been working in the Bionanolab under the supervision of Professor Neethirajan since September 2016 and has access to Biosafety level 2 facilities, with direct guidance from the bionano scientists. Ryan Berthelot and Syed Ahmed of the Bionano Lab have been closely working with Jack Mogus and provided training to use the various equipment for characterization, testing the graphene infused gloves for antibacterial efficacies using microbiological experiments. Jack also accessed the Scanning Electron Microscope, cultured E.Coli and Listeria samples, conducted swab tests, and tensile testing using universal testing machines.  

The 57th annual Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair awards ceremony sponsored by ArcelorMittal Dofasco was held on April 4th, 2017 - Tuesday night at Mohawk College.  Jack won numerous prizes in this competition including the Best High School Project. Jack also won the Chemical Institute of Canada award, Hamilton Academy of Dentistry Award, Yale Science & Engineering Association Award and the Gold Merit Award at this 2017 competition.

Big Congratulations to Jack! Jack will be competing in the 'Intel International Science and Engineering Fair 2017 to be held at Los Angeles, California between May 14-19, 2017. Best wishes for this competition, Jack!



Nanoscience discovery may slow spread of disease outbreaks, produce better flu shots   (Link

Waterloo Region Record

GUELPH — Better flu vaccines and fewer disease outbreaks are possible with a new nanoscience-based method for detecting viruses developed by international scientists, including a University of Guelph researcher.

The team's discovery could speed up identification of flu strains to develop more effective vaccines and also detect other viruses early to prevent epidemics.

"This allows viruses to be detected early before large numbers of people get sick," said Prof. Suresh Neethirajan, head of the BioNano Laboratory in Guelph's engineering school.

"It's moving from reacting to predicting."

Neethirajan and researchers in Korea and Japan worked with various flu strains to develop a system with gold nanoparticle films that can detect viruses at a much lower level than conventional methods.

"It could be 500 times more sensitive," Neethirajan said. "We can detect samples that are much, much smaller."

That means test results are faster, aiding in speedy manufacture of targeted flu vaccines to reduce the annual global impact of the bug. In Canada, there are more than 12,000 flu-related hospitalizations each year, according to Health Canada statistics.

And it's useful for detecting other viruses, enabling earlier treatment for those who get sick and "possibly predict the outbreak even before it can happen," Neethirajan said

Plus, the researchers designed an inexpensive and portable tool that uses paper strips coated with sensing material that can quickly show with a colour change if a virus is present in a sample.

That could prove especially helpful with food-borne illnesses, such as Norwalk and hepatitis, to quickly identify the virus in order to contain outbreaks. Or even before that, it could detect contamination on produce from handling.

Also, it could be used to detect the influenza strains in birds and pigs.

"This can be found in the live animal before it reaches the food chain," Neethirajan said

The discovery is described in a paper this month in Scientific Reports, published by Nature.

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