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Mursla’s nanochip technology for exosome detection poised to transform disease diagnosis

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Nanochip technology that can be used for the ultra-sensitive detection of exosomes in our bodies has been unveiled by Mursla.

The Cambridge Science Park company says the technology, part of its ExoPheno platform, helps to overcome the challenges in using exosome biology to help diagnose disease.

Exosomes are extracellular vesicles - in other words, they are found outside our cells but reflect the state of their cellular sources. They transport ‘-omics’ information, in the form of DNA, RNA, proteins, lipids and metabolites, locally or to distant sites via the circulatory system, including in our blood.

Pierre Arsène, founder and CEO of Mursla. Picture: Mursla
Pierre Arsène, founder and CEO of Mursla. Picture: Mursla

Using a blood draw, exosomes from diseased tissue can be captured non-invasively, providing a dynamic circulating snapshot of disease activity.

But the challenge lies in translating exosome-based diagnostics into clinics.

Pierre Arsène, founder and CEO of Mursla, said: “We believe that properly analysing exosome biology in patients leads to breakthrough diagnostic solutions. It is now an engineering problem and our new nanoelectronics-based technology contributes to overcoming the last technical hurdles around sensitivity and clinical compatibility.”

The new ultrasensitive technology is called NEXOS (Nanoparticle EXOsome Sensing) and comprises two methods.

The first is a novel patented and scalable nanoelectronics method called E-NEXOS, while the second, O-NEXOS, is a high-throughput optical detection method, O-NEXOS.

Both require the same steps for the immunocapture and antibody-labelling of exosomes and they can be combined to derive differentiated detection parameters.

A pre-print, titled ‘An electro-optical bead-nanochip technology for the ultrasensitive and multi-dimensional detection of small extracellular vesicles and their markers’, has been published by Mursla, setting out its key features, which include:

  • Ultrasensitive detection of target exosomes and their markers.
  • Compatibility with clinical practices in a high throughput format.
  • Determination of novel exosome dimensions enabling new research and clinical applications.

Presentation of a roadmap for near absolute target exosome quantification and single exosome detection.

Dr Tomás Dias, CTO of Mursla, said: “To advance the understanding of exosomes’ biology and their implications in disease, novel tools are required. NEXOS technology offers ultrasensitive and original characterisation metrics with the aim of disrupting many exosome applications. The reported study is the result of work carried out by Mursla’s multidisciplinary team.”

An artist’s impression of a cell secreting exosomes
An artist’s impression of a cell secreting exosomes

The progress follows the announcement, reported last month, that Mursla had secured mentorship support from Roche Diagnostics for a new liquid biopsy prospective pilot study for liver cancer surveillance.

Part of MedCity’s Collaborate to Innovate: London Diagnostics programme, the aim is to to develop a blood test that can detect early-stage hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) more effectively than the current standard of care.

The study aims to select and confirm the relevance of novel HCC biomarkers for a larger longitudinal study that would demonstrate high clinical performance in a more tailored cohort.

The work also has a secondary objective - to assess Mursla’s tissue-specific and multi-omics exosome approach as proof of concept for the development of other related cancer liquid biopsy tests.

Mursla’s technology combines wet lab and dry lab analysis via machine learning. It will use it to analyse samples collected in London and Portugal and establish differences in the multi-omics cargo of specific exosome sub-populations between patients with various chronic liver diseases and cancer at various stages.

Roche Diagnostics will share expertise and best practice in evidence generation, scaling up and market access.

Mursla says that first generation liquid biopsy tests measure circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) mutations and/or epigenetic markers, such as ctDNA methylation or fragmentation patterns.

But these have proved unreliable at early-stage cancer detection, mean they would potentially lead to millions of distressing false positives.

Through ExoPheno, Mursla intends to improve the predictive power of liquid biopsies. Its advantages include:

  • using tissue-of-origin markers to capture tissue-specific exosomes in blood.
  • detecting specific multi-omics disease markers in exosomes, mirroring the parental cell with disease.
  • focusing on dynamic information released by living cells in exosomes, not by dying cells in the case of ctDNA.

Pierre said: “We believe that the specific multi-omics information carried by blood exosomes from the tumour and its microenvironment will enable the next generation of liquid biopsy tests.”

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