Cells and tissues are characterized by a specific dynamic biochemical composition and molecular structure. In a similar way, each pathology or cellular abnormality is accompanied by biochemical and molecular changes, which may also be dynamic in nature (for example, as a cancer cell progresses to a vascularized system). Optical and spectroscopic techniques that correlate the biochemical composition, molecular structure, and its variations with the diagnosis would provide powerful clinical tools. Raman spectroscopy fulfils these requirements and has several unique advantages:
- Molecular vibrations of all constituents are probed simultaneously without external labels giving a specific fingerprint.
- This information can be obtained at various excitation wavelengths and intensities that are non-destructive to living organisms, and can be tuned with resonance measurements to specific chemical species.
- Combination with microscopic techniques is capable of mapping molecular species at submicrometer resolution, as well as the ability to collect images as a function of depth as well as space.
- Combination with fiber optic probes enables minimal invasive application during endoscopy.
The potential of Raman-based techniques in clinical diagnostics has been proven in many reports. Raman4clinics fosters collaboration between established research clusters of scientists within biophotonics and physicians/clinicians. It advances the conversion of scientific findings into clinically relevant, practicable and economically feasible diagnostic methods and systems, setting up a technology portfolio based on Raman spectroscopy. The Action forms a collaborative network of top European researchers working towards the progress of the emerging field of Raman techniques for the assessment of body fluids, pathogens, cells and tissues and their translation into clinical practice. The development and translation require active interaction and exchange of knowledge between a wide range of disciplines; laser instrumentation, microscopy, spectroscopy, fiber optics, the life, chemical, biological and physical sciences. COST as a precursor of advanced multidisciplinary research is the ideal vehicle for establishing such a forum, as its open character matches the need of an expanding research field and favors the formation of a dynamic network on European level, while individual experts from different disciplines easily can join without previous connections.
Why a European Network on Raman applications for clinical diagnostics supported by COST?
- Capacity building: to strengthen European competences in each individual research area as well as successful cooperation,
- Accelerating clinical trials for such an innovative methodology. A collaborative network will help the groups to bridge the gap of evaluation between tissue/physical models and clinical testing.
- Connecting research infrastructures to all potential users. Expertise in the assessment of Raman devices for commercialization (Technology Readiness Levels), protection of intellectual property, technology licensing, and “spin-off” opportunities will be shared.
- Combining nationally funded research programs with a strong demand to join forces, networking and capacity-building activities for exchanging high-quality knowledge,
- Generating SOPs (standard operating procedures) from sample collection and analysis to data processing (chemometrics) all aimed towards improved patient outcome along with biological understanding of pathophysiological changes.
- Match other initiatives world-wide.