Edinburgh Infectious Diseases scientists developing microscopic probe to benefit critically ill patients

Intensive care patients could be helped by a new tool to enable doctors to see inside their lungs

Potentially fatal lung complications are common among patients on ventilation in intensive care units (ICU).  This new device will check for and monitor infections, inflammation and scarring.

Interdisciplinary team

Professor Mark Bradley, who is a member of Edinburgh Infectious Diseases in the University’s School of Chemistry, will lead the project with scientists from the University of Bath and Heriot Watt University over the next five years.

They will use advanced fibre optic technology, new chemistries, microelectronics and computer intelligence to create a microscopic probe that can be passed into patients’ lungs and blood vessels.  The probe will be able to detect and monitor up to 20 key indicators of disease.

The team has been awarded £11.2 million by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), along with support from the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust.

Revolution in medical care

Researchers will also look at using the probe to help critically ill premature babies in the hope that it could replace the need for regular blood tests to measure oxygen, acid and glucose levels.  The device will also deliver tiny amounts of tracer compounds that will highlight specific bacteria and viruses and other harmful substances that could damage the lung.  The signals from these compounds will be transmitted to a computer to be converted into real-time, easily understood disease readouts for doctors.

Mark Bradley, Professor of High-Throughput Chemical Biology says:

Our Fibre-based Optical Sensing and Imaging Platform (FOSIP) will give doctors the ability to rapidly diagnosis patients and inform them about the best drugs for patients. It will monitor a patient’s condition in real time – without the need for cumbersome equipment or ionizing radiation.

Experts say that having such information quickly at the bedside will revolutionise respiratory medicine through dramatically improving the ability to accurately diagnose, monitor and treat lung disease.

It is hoped that the probe will be used in the future in acute urinary, gastrointestinal and reproductive tract problems.

The work will take place within the University’s Queen’s Medical Research Institute on the Royal Infirmary hospital site.

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