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UK Health Care Investment Includes Fiber Optics

Photonics.com
May 2013
EDINBURGH, Scotland, and SWINDON, England, May 10, 2013 — The development of fiber optic sensors that monitor the condition of intensive care patients is among the projects that will benefit from a £32 million (about $49 million) investment, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) announced this week. The project is one of three involving smartphones, probes and sensors that aim to transform health care, the council said.

The EPSRC is investing the money in establishing three new health care Interdisciplinary Research Collaborations (IRCs); an additional £9 million (about $14 million) is being contributed by universities and project partners.

“Today’s health care challenges are many and complex; designing and integrating technologies that will help clinicians to diagnose and monitor patients is where the cross-disciplinary research we are funding at these IRCs can play a vital role,” said EPSRC CEO Dave Delpy.

The Multiplexed "Touch and Tell" Optical Molecular Sensing and Imaging project will create a fiber optic device to detect potentially fatal lung conditions in intensive care patients, and to continuously monitor the blood in critically ill adults and babies without the need for blood sampling. It will be led by professor Mark Bradley of the University of Edinburgh, working with Heriot-Watt University and the University of Bath as well as project partners ST Microelectronics, Carestream Health, Edinburgh Biosciences and the UK Astronomy Technology Centre.

Under a £9 million EPSRC grant, the £11 million (about $17 million) project brings an interdisciplinary team together to design, make and test a small fiber optic probe that can be used at the patient’s bedside, inserted into his or her lung, blood vessels or other body parts, such as digestive, urinary or reproductive tracts.

The probe will contain a variety of special optical fibers, some of which allow clinicians to “view” inside the lung while others will be modified with sensors that can measure important parameters such as oxygen concentration and acidity in both blood and lung in real-time. The fiber will also deliver “smart reagents” that detect specific bacteria and viruses and sense other processes that can cause lung damage.


Multiplexed "Touch and Tell" Optical Molecular Sensing and Imaging project will create a fiber optic device to detect potentially fatal lung conditions in intensive care patients, and to continuously monitor the blood in critically ill adults and babies without the need for blood sampling. Courtesy of the University of Edinburgh


Initially, the research will focus on patients in intensive care, where potentially fatal lung complications are a common problem with ventilated patients, and critically ill babies, who often need to have blood samples taken to test oxygen and acid levels.

The two other projects are a smartphone test and tracking systems for infectious diseases, and in-home sensors that can immediately relay patient information to doctors.

Early-warning sensing systems for infectious diseases — next-generation smartphone test and tracking systems for serious infections, including new strains of influenza, MRSA and HIV — is led by University College London with Newcastle University, Imperial College London, and The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Industry partners are Microsoft Research, OJ-Bio, Mologic, Cambridge Life Sciences, Zurich Instruments, and O2 Health.

SPHERE (Sensor Platform for Healthcare in a Residential Environment) is a 24/7 digital home health assistant to monitor patients’ health in their own homes, targeting obesity, depression, falls, stroke, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal diseases. The project is led by the University of Bristol with the University of Southampton and University of Reading, with project partners IBM United Kingdom and Toshiba Research Europe, among others.

For more information, visit: www.epsrc.ac.uk


GLOSSARY
optical fiber
A thin filament of drawn or extruded glass or plastic having a central core and a cladding of lower index material to promote total internal reflection (TIR). It may be used singly to transmit pulsed optical signals (communications fiber) or in bundles to transmit light or images.  
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