04/06/2013 06:33 BST | Updated 04/06/2013 07:27 BST

Lung Disease Detector Developed


A tool is being developed to help doctors search patients' lungs for infection and potentially save lives.

The microscopic probe will use the latest fibre optic technology to detect and monitor up to 20 signs of disease in people on breathing support.

Lung complications are common among patients on ventilation in intensive care units and can be fatal.

Infections, inflammation and scarring will be picked up by the probe which is designed to be passed into the lungs and blood vessels.

The device is being developed over the next five years by a team at Edinburgh University.

It will measuring oxygen, acidity and glucose in the patients' blood and lungs and deliver tiny amounts of chemical compounds that will highlight specific bacteria and viruses and that could damage the lung.

Experts say that accessing such information so quickly will revolutionise respiratory medicine by dramatically improving the ability to accurately diagnose, monitor and treat lung disease.

Researchers are looking at how the tool could be used to help critically ill premature babies by replacing the need for regular blood tests to measure oxygen, acid and glucose levels.

They hope that the probe will also help in the diagnosis of acute urinary, gastrointestinal and reproductive tract problems.

Professor Mark Bradley, from Edinburgh University's school of chemistry, said: "Our Fibre-based Optical Sensing and Imaging Platform 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."

The project involves physicists, chemists, engineers and computer experts from Edinburgh, Bath and Heriot-Watt universities.

The work will take place at the Queen's Medical Research Institute on the site of Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

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