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University of Wales College of Medicine (now merged with Cardiff University)

The present worldwide use of labelled antibody assays based on chemiluminescence is testimony to the significance of the College's work

Scientists in the University of Wales College of Medicine (now merged with Cardiff University) developed an invention which has since brought dramatic improvements in clinical diagnosis and patient management.

The key step was the realisation that chemicals that emit light when they are oxidized could be used as alternatives to radioisotopes for labelling antibodies in diagnostic tests. The scientists have shown that that immunoassays based on chemiluminescence can be up to fifty times more sensitive than those using radioactivity while avoiding the problems associated with the use of radioactive substances.

Commercial partners subsequently invested heavily in the new technology. Continued collaborative research with the College, and now the School of Medicine has produced automated analytical systems which can now deliver results within minutes rather than hours and provide doctors with more accurate information on which to plan patient care. 

Further applications have made it possible to identify unique DNA sequences by the use of chemiluminescent gene probes and this has led to rapid and sensitive tests for the identification of bacteria, viruses, cancer cells and gene mutations. Ongoing research continues to provide improvements in the base technology and its applications.