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All roads lead to Toruń
October 26, 2012   
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An optoelectronic system of sensors for detecting disease markers in exhaled air, modern optical methods to study changes in biological systems, and radiation protection systems—these are some of the projects being carried out with the participation of the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń in north-central Poland.

All these projects have qualified for funding under the first round of the National Center for Research and Development’s (NCBiR) Applied Research Program. The results of the research will be used in industry.

So far, chiefly gas chromatography and mass spectrometry were used to detect disease markers in exhaled air. However, these methods are insufficient to accurately determine the amount and type of chemical compounds contained in exhaled air. New opportunities in this area are offered by optoelectronics. It makes it possible to detect markers by measuring the absorption of optical radiation at wavelengths characteristic of specific biomarkers.

The researchers behind a project called Sensormed have set out to use ultrasensitive laser absorption spectroscopy (LAS) techniques for an optoelectronic system of sensors for the detection of volatile markers.

Total co-funding for the project is zl.4.39 million, of which a research team led by Prof. Bogusław Buszewski from the Nicolaus Copernicus University’s Department of Chemistry will receive more than half a million zlotys. The other research centers involved in the project are the Institute of Optoelectronics at the Jarosław D±browski Military University of Technology in Warsaw—a team headed by Prof. Zbigniew Bielecki; the Department of Physics at the University of Warsaw—a team led by Prof. Tadeusz Stacewicz; and the VIGO System company run by CEO Mirosław Grudzień.

“The development of interferometric optical methods to study the dynamics of biological systems” is an interdisciplinary research project that covers biology, medicine, medical physics, engineering, optics, and computer science. The project’s aim is to develop microscopic optical methods to examine the dynamics of biological systems. The researchers also want to conduct studies to further enhance new optical methods developed by the Nicolaus Copernicus University’s Optical Biomedical Imaging Group headed by Maciej Wojtkowski. Moreover, the project includes research on developing advanced image analysis methods at the Poznań University of Technology’s Laboratory of Intelligent Decision Support Systems headed by Krzysztof Krawiec.

Microscopic methods will be used to assess microvascular structures in the human eye, when diagnosing diseases involving microangiopathy, or changes induced by diabetes. These methods will also be used to evaluate microvascular network morphology and blood flow in animal models to help treat strokes.

In the course of the project, laboratory facilities will be built for research in the field of life sciences and medicine, which will make it possible to quickly check the effectiveness of the methods developed. These facilities will be built at the Laboratory of Molecular and Systemic Neuromorphology headed by Grzegorz Wilczyński at the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology in Warsaw; at the Department of Embryology, Faculty of Biology, University of Warsaw—in collaboration with Anna Ajduk; and at the Department of Neurology and Cerebrovascular Disorders of the Karol Marcinkowski University of Medical Sciences in Poznań—in cooperation with Dr. Michał Pawlak. At the Nicolaus Copernicus University, the project is headed by Maciej Szkulmowski from the Department of Biophysics and Medical Physics.

The project is expected to produce specific solutions in the field of new optical technologies for use in laboratory and clinical work. These solutions are intended for institutions conducting research in the field of biology and medicine.

The project will benefit from co-financing from the National Center for Research and Development to the tune of zl.6.78 million.

Ionizing radiation (alpha, beta, gamma, and X-rays) is widely used in medicine, radiation therapy and computed tomography. It is also used in science, industry and security systems, for example at airports and at border checkpoints.

Moreover, Poland’s first nuclear power plant is expected to be launched in 2020. This implies the need to ensure radiological safety for workers and the civilian population, in addition to the radiological monitoring of buildings and surrounding areas.

The necessary measurements are provided by environmental dosimetry. One of the most modern and rapidly developing measurement techniques is luminescent dosimetry based mainly on the OSL method: optically stimulated luminescence.

Alicja Chru¶cińska from the Department of Semiconductor and Carbon Physics manages the “Modular Luminescent System for Radiation Protection and Retrospective Dosimetry” project co-financed by the NCBiR. The researchers applied for a grant of zl.2.89 million; of this, zl.602,000 will go to Nicolaus Copernicus University.

The aim of the project is to test and optimize a heating and temperature control module, as well as to develop and examine new optical stimulation methods in OSL measurements.

In addition to the Nicolaus Copernicus University’s Faculty of Physics, Astronomy and Applied Computer Science, the consortium comprises the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the Jan Długosz University in Częstochowa; the Institute of Physics/Science and Education Center at the Silesian University of Technology; the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the Jan Długosz University in Częstochowa; and the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Henryk Niewodniczański Institute of Nuclear Physics in Cracow.

In all, the first round of the National Center for Research and Development’s Applied Research Program attracted a total of 1,140 applications; of this 1,080 were qualified for review and 734 received positive ratings. The NCBiR set aside zl.600 million for the first round of the program, enough to finance 189 projects.
Karolina Olszewska
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