Problem-solving spectrometers

Rob Morris explains how applied spectral knowledge solves life sciences challenges

Today’s biomedical and life sciences professionals require analytical instrumentation and application insight that are simpler, smarter and more robust than ever before. And with the shift from one-size-fits-all treatment plans toward personalisation and accessibility, the need for non-invasive and non-destructive analytical technologies such as spectral sensing will continue to increase.

Researchers in academia, institutions and industry

Pushing the frontiers of what’s possible in understanding disease, developing diagnostics and using biotechnology to advance therapies demands a versatile toolkit of analytical instruments. An entire industry has emerged around the use of compact, modular spectroscopy hardware, pioneered by Ocean Optics (now Ocean Insight) in the early 1990s. Today’s solutions are both robust and affordable enough to support life sciences applications that were previously reliant on expensive, scientific-grade instrumentation.

Researchers of all stripes benefit from the more flexible technology, with applications including absorbance of colour-based analytes, fluorescence of markers used in protein analysis, and Raman analysis for chemical identification. In addition, institutional funding and corporate grant award programmes are available that promote optical sensing technologies that advance the common good (Ocean Insight and Edmund Optics are among companies with programmes targeted to researchers at universities and start-ups).

QA process engineers in manufacturing

Embedding robust, reliable analytical techniques into industrial life sciences processes can be limited by lack of instrument consistency, scalability and automation capability. But today’s modular spectrometers, imaging sensors and accessories can be optimised to monitor life sciences systems and processes for biomedicine, pharmaceuticals and more.

For example, Ocean Insight evaluated 785nm Raman spectroscopy to characterise the curing process for ophthalmic materials. Using a modular Raman setup to measure a mixture of chemicals irradiated by a curing lamp, the team conducted multiple measurements over varying levels of lamp exposure time. Based on several clear indicators of polymerisation revealed in the measurement data, the researchers proved that Raman spectroscopy can be effective as a QC tool to characterise these ophthalmic materials before making their way to the patient.

Instrumentation for biomedical and life sciences applications

Applying analytical techniques such as spectroscopy to biomedical and life sciences challenges requires a carefully considered combination of scalable hardware, application know-how and algorithm development. Compact spectrometers, multispectral sensors and chemical sensors are ideal for integrating into instrumentation, with options including components, subsystems and turnkey solutions. Among the applications possible are point of care diagnostics including blood gas testing and biochemical assays; DNA/RNA analysis including PCR; and tissue monitoring and protein analysis.

With modular optical sensing tools, there is no single solution. But with advances in spectroscopy and sensing technologies, and better understanding of how to optimise their use, suppliers can craft the building blocks for most life sciences applications with a high degree of commonality. So, whether those building blocks are applied at the research lab or on the process line, the life sciences professional will benefit.

Rob Morris is with Ocean Insight

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