EU Project Support

Synchrotron Miniaturization enabling Innovative Laboratory Equipment (SMILE) in Soft X-ray Tomography

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 738774

Societal issue being addressed:

Cancer now accounts for a quarter of all deaths in the EU and it has recently overtaken cardiovascular disease as the number one cause of death in men over 50. Despite billions of Euros of investment in cell biology, science has barely scratched the surface in understanding what is happening within a cancerous cell to make it multiply uncontrollably as the disease spreads through the body. Cell shape and the shape of its internal organelles, are seen as important influencers on cell signaling and gene switching that triggers cancer growth. 3D imaging of the internal structure of whole, intact, cells is playing an increasingly important role in helping scientists to understand cancer as it allows them to accurately and non-intrusively measure and monitor organelle shape.

Role of soft x-ray imaging:

The only technology available today that can image through a whole cell, without needing to slice it or stain it, is soft x-ray imaging, which is carried out using a soft x-ray microscope. The problem is that the soft x-ray illumination required for a soft x-ray microscope is only available from electron accelerator facilities, called synchrotrons. Only four of these billion dollar, football stadium-sized facilities exist that have a soft x-ray beamline and only approximately 100 research groups from a target addressable market of 3,000 disease research organisations have been able to get access, having had to queue for up to twelve months to do so.

SiriusXT’s Innovation:

SiriusXT’s innovation has been to miniaturize the synchrotron into a small chamber that will that will easily fit on a laboratory bench. This patented source of soft x-ray illumination, when integrated with a microscope similar to that used at the synchrotrons, will give our target addressable market of 3,000 disease research organizations access to this imaging modality in their own labs, at a fraction of the cost of a synchrotron.

Overall Objectives of Project SMILE

i) to demonstrate a reliable miniaturized source, which is capable of producing sufficient soft x-ray illumination to image a whole cell in 3D in under 60 minutes

ii) to build and demonstrate a soft x-ray microscope, using the miniaturized soft x-ray source.

iii) to carry out a Pilot evaluation of the soft x-ray microscope at the Crick Cancer Research Institute in London