To date, the origin of viruses remains murky for cell biologists and virologists. And the fact it replicates itself within the cells it invades makes it even more difficult for scientists to classify it, as per the biological classification. Numerous scientists around the world are putting the pieces together, based on viral histories, in a bid to trace the origin of the viruses.
In this regard, SiriusXT, a University College Dublin (UCD) spin-out, and two UCD researchers are working on a 4-year CoCID (Compact Cell-Imaging Device) project. The mission of the project is to provide insights into the cellular origins of viral diseases like hepatitis C, hepatitis E, herpesvirus, and SARS-CoV-2.
Raised €2.35M in funding
Recently, SiriusXT has been awarded a total of €2.35M in funding for a disruptive photonics technology project through Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme. Co-founded by Dr. Kenneth Fahy, Dr. Paul Sheridan, Dr. Fergal O’Reilly, and Tony McEnroe in 2015, SiriusXT has now raised over €12M in grant and equity funding.
Notably, SiriusXT and the UCD researchers – Assistant Professor Nicola Fletcher and Professor Dimitri Scholz, are partners in an international project, CoCID, which has received a total of €5.67M in funding.
Helps scientists to understand diseases
The 3D imaging of the internal structure of the whole and intact cells is playing an important role in helping scientists to understand diseases, since it plays a major role in cell signalling mechanisms that underpin disease causation.
Based on research carried out at the UCD School of Physics, SiriusXT has developed and patented a miniaturised soft x-ray source – Soft X-Ray Microscope. The core technology, underpinning the SiriusXT microscope is a vacuum-based laser-produced plasma (LPP) soft x-ray light source.
In simple words, it is essentially a CT scan of the cell and it is critical to life scientists looking to image the 3D internal structure of an entire cell in its native fully hydrated state.
According to SiriusXT, this breakthrough is significantly impacting the cell imaging market by opening up access for a proven imaging modality to thousands of disease researchers worldwide including those partnering in the CoCID project.
Tony McEnroe, CEO and co-founder, SiriusXT, says, “This project award not only helps fund the advancement of our SXT-100 microscope, it also allows SiriusXT to collaborate closely with European leaders in virology research to demonstrate the benefits of soft x-ray microscopy in progressing their understanding of pathogen infection pathways.”
Early access to soft x-ray microscope
Through the CoCID project, UCD researchers gain early access to the SiriusXT soft x-ray microscope as part of the core imaging facility at the UCD Conway Institute. Besides, assistant professor Nicola Fletcher will use the soft x-ray microscopy as one of the four CoCID use cases to accelerate research studies into understanding cross-species transmission mechanisms of the hepatitis E virus.
Assistant Professor Nicola Fletcher, UCD School of Veterinary Medicine, says, “Soft x-ray microscopy is an extremely exciting, potentially game-changing technique that will allow us to visualise virally infected cells in exquisite detail. We will investigate the mechanisms by which the hepatitis E virus, an emerging infectious disease that is transmitted to humans from infected animals, infects cells from different species. The ultimate aim is to explore new treatment options for this important viral infection.”
Partners of CoCID projects
Apart from SiriusXT and UCD, the other CoCID project partners are – Heidelberg University Hospital Molecular Virology and Heidelberg University Centre for Organismal Studies in Germany, University of Jyväskylä, Finland; Centro Nacional de Biotecnologia and Alba Synchrotron – Mistral Beamline in Spain.
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