National Physical Laboratory

Disease diagnosis in dogs

A Technology Innovation Fund project brought together the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and ReactivLab, a spin-out company from the University of Glasgow, which suspected an issue with batch quality from a third party supplier.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto
Image courtesy of iStockphoto

ReactivLab specialises in the diagnosis and prognosis of disease in animals by analysing specific proteins, known as biomarkers. The company has recently developed a test for levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood serum of dogs, which can aid in the diagnosis of diseases such as polyarthritis, lymphoma and leukaemia.

CRP is produced in the liver and is an acute-phase protein, which means that high concentrations can indicate inflammation, and associated illnesses. A vital component of the test relies upon a supply of latex particles coated with an antibody that binds to the CRP molecules to form what is known as an immune complex. These coated latex particles are supplied to ReactivLab by a third party.

The test works by detecting the aggregation of the antibody-coated latex particles and the CRP found in the canine serum sample, which changes its optical characteristics. Essentially, the sample becomes cloudier as the CRP and antibodies bind together forming more, and larger, aggregates. The test measures this optical change using spectroscopy and makes a quantitative determination of the concentration of CRP in the serum.

The Challenge

As part of internal quality control procedures, ReactivLab had noticed some variation in the quality of the batches supplied by the third party and suspected that this was caused by aggregation of the particles. As the test works by measuring aggregates formed by the binding of CRP and the antibody, any variability in the initial samples could impact the end results. ReactivLab approached NPL to further investigate the problem and a Technology Innovation Fund (TIF) project was set up to carry out the work.

The Solution

NPL tested different batches supplied to ReactivLab and quickly identified which were 'good' and which were 'bad' using techniques such as dynamic light scattering analysis, which measures the diameter and size distribution of the aggregates. The 'bad' batches were found to contain some aggregates up to 5,000 nanometres in diameter.

The Impact

As a result of the TIF project, ReactivLab can gain more control over their product and ensure the reliability of the test. This is possible thanks to NPL helping demonstrate a method by which ReactivLab could produce the antibody coated latex particles in-house to the required specifications. A trial was carried out at NPL to demonstrate the effectiveness of this method and further work will be carried out to repeat the demonstration at ReactivLab's facilities.

NPL's Technology Innovation Fund (TIF) can provide bespoke technical support for UK industry to help overcome barriers to innovation.

More on NPL's work in Biotechnology

Last Updated: 7 Nov 2016
Created: 10 Apr 2013

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