IME & INEX To Develop Non-Invasive Prenatal Diagnostics

Using IME’s microfluidic technology, testing for fetal abnormalities will only require a few milliliters of blood from the mother.

AsianScientist (Jun. 23, 2015) – A*STAR’s Institute of Microelectronics (IME) and INEX Innovations Exchange (INEX), a local molecular diagnostic company, will collaborate to develop a non-invasive prenatal diagnostic technology that is as effective as and safer than existing prenatal diagnostic procedures. The collaboration will leverage on IME’s expertise in microfabrication and INEX’s translational research capabilities in creating products valued by the clinical community.

Expectant mothers whose prenatal screening results show signs of fetal anomaly are often recommended to undergo prenatal diagnostic tests for a definitive diagnosis of fetal genetic abnormalities, as this allows for early medical treatment of these conditions. However, prevailing diagnostic procedures such as amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS), while reliable, are invasive and carry a risk of pregnancy loss of up to approximately five percent.

The partnership aims to overcome this risk by leveraging on IME’s rare cell isolation technology–a microfluidic chip that contains a microfabricated filter membrane to isolate and enrich fetal cells found in maternal blood.

“Over the years, advancements in science and technology have improved surgical fetal therapies that treat prenatally diagnosed abnormalities. As fetal care continues to improve, innovations in prenatal diagnostics, such as effective non-invasive prenatal diagnostic tests that enable early risk assessment, will support doctors in their counsel to patients and better manage fetal conditions,” said Professor Mahesh Choolani, senior consultant at the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology of the National University Hospital.

Cell isolation and enrichment is a process to isolate, identify and extract target cells such as fetal cells from blood sample, through depleting non-target cells such as red blood cells and platelets.

IME’s microfluidic chip enables its microfabricated filter to successfully deplete more than 99.9 percent of non-target cells out of all the cells in a blood sample and effectively capture fetal cells with high recovery rate of approximately 85 percent. It is also less likely to cause target cell loss compared to existing methods that separate or remove non-target cells that involve mechanical centrifugation or chemically cell lysis steps.

“It is exciting to see more medical technology companies in Singapore and worldwide working with IME. In IME, particularly our Bioelectronics program, we work closely with clinicians and position ourselves to develop technologies to fulfill clinical unmet needs,” said Professor Kwong Dim-Lee, executive director of IME.

IME’s technology overcomes the critical challenge of isolating fetal cells known for their rarity, to produce high purity sample for clinical downstream molecular analysis of aneuploidies or chromosomal abnormalities and identification of various genetic disorders. It could also be potentially used from the eighth week of pregnancy, the earliest among all current prenatal diagnostic technologies.

Clinicians will only need to draw a few milliliters of blood from an expectant mother to generate results of the health condition of the fetus.

Statistics have shown that without proper prenatal diagnosis and effective fetal treatment therapy, one in 50 babies would be born with serious physical and mental handicap and as many as one in 30 newborns would develop some form of congenital malformation.

This diagnostic technology is expected to eliminate the risk of pregnancy loss associated with invasive prenatal testing and allow effective treatment of genetic fetal abnormalities.

“As a company focused on women’s and fetal health, we are delighted to collaborate with IME to bring new capabilities to the world to improve women’s health. IME’s rare cell isolation system is simple to use and has the potential to revolutionize the practice of prenatal diagnosis globally,” said Ms. Sim Hui Shan, vice president—Commercial of INEX.


Source: A*STAR.
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