Health Spain , Salamanca, Tuesday, September 25 of 2018, 10:12

New fluorescent probes to research and diagnose liver and digestive diseases

A project of the University of Salamanca has developed more effective molecules to analyze the state of different tissues from the enterohepatic circuit

FGUSAL/DICYT Researchers from the University of Salamanca have developed new fluorescent probes that will serve both for research purposes and for the diagnosis of liver and the digestive system diseases. Experts use these molecules to study the state in which the tissues are found, but those used so far offer very limited possibilities.

"One of our research group objectives is to develop new molecules that can be used both for preclinical research and for the diagnosis of diseases affecting the enterohepatic circuit, which is formed by the liver and the intestines. We are talking, for example, about obstructions, nodules, carcinomas, and metastases, which can be located in different parts of the digestive system, "explains Marta Rodríguez Romero, researcher at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a member of the Experimental Hepatology and Vectorization Laboratory. Drugs from the University of Salamanca (HEVEFARM), which currently directs José Juan García Marín.

The project has been developed thanks to the Proof of Concept call from the General Foundation of the University of Salamanca within the TCUE program of the Regional Government of Castilla y León, co-financed with FEDER funds. It obtaining of n focuses on developing new probes through the union fluorochromes, luminescent substances, and some molecules that are naturally found in the enterohepatic circuit.

"We have developed new molecules that will serve as tracers for the enteropathic circuit. They can be used in the diagnosis of different pathologies since we have joint them to a structure that emulates the molecules that we naturally have inside our digestive system. Therefore, they will be confined in it and they will help us see the image of these tissues and distinguish if they present some kind of pathology, "says the researcher.

Improving effectiveness

By means of in vitro tests of cell cultures, the researchers have verified that the probes obtained in this project, which cover a broad spectrum of emission from the ultraviolet to the infrared, offer better results than the molecules that are currently used especially when trying to target a particular tissue.

According to Marta Rodríguez, "the current methods of clinical diagnosis based on image capture use molecules that lack vectoriality towards the liver or towards other tissues of the enterohepatic circuit". Therefore, the objective of this research group "focuses on designing new molecules that have the same structure of endogenous molecules in our digestive system so that they could direct fluorochromes to those tissues we need to visualize" she says.

The direct benefit derived from the project we are working on is that we can specifically direct these probes to the liver or to any digestive tissues, so that we can specifically visualize the activity of that area without affecting the activity of other body tissues, highlights Conchi Pérez Melero researcher from the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences who is also part of the HEVEFARM group.

Francisco Bermejo González, from the Department of Organic Chemistry, has also participated in this project. All of them also belong to the Biomedical Research Institute of Salamanca (IBSAL) and the Center for Biomedical Research in the Liver and Digestive Diseases Network of the Carlos III Health Institute (CIBERehd).