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Lighting the Way to a Healthy Nation

Optical ‘X-rays’ for walk through diagnosis and therapy
Professor Mark Bradley

Professor Mark Bradley, Professor of High-Throughput Chemical Biology at the School of Chemistry, will lead a new and exciting medical imaging project that brings together an interdisciplinary team of scientists to develop unique treatment options for the healthcare needs of 2050.

Professor Bradley has received funding of £5.5 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to lead the project over the next 5 years. The project will build a team of 40 researchers (including early career researchers and PhD’s) and brings together groups from across the University of Edinburgh (in Chemistry, Engineering and Medicine), with teams from the Universities of Nottingham and Southampton.  

The research will look to develop hand-held devices that can be used in GP Surgeries and on hospital wards which enable doctors and nurses to see inside a patient’s body and provide fast diagnoses and considerable savings for the NHS. The project aims to replace the current imaging technology used by healthcare professionals which can provide diagnoses of disease but also come with limitations. MRI Scans provide detailed imagery for diagnosis but are expensive and require a contrast agent to be injected into the patient’s body which can be toxic. X-Rays are also a powerful diagnosis tool but can be dangerous and only show bones, whilst ultrasound is non-invasive but does not provide high resolution images.

Far-red ‘invisible’ light has the potential to provide clearer diagnostic information fast, and is benign so does not have any of the damaging effects of other technologies. Current diagnostic light microscopy technology can only penetrate 1mm beneath a patient’s skin. The team are looking to develop lasers that can go to 5mm, deep enough to diagnose melanomas, and then to 10s of mm which would allow healthcare workers to look at joints and bones, improving diagnosis for diseases such cancer and osteoarthritis.

By harnessing world-leading optical physics, cutting edge detector technology and artificial intelligence the project will allow affordable, non invasive early detection of disease that will significantly enhance the quality of life of an aging UK population.

Osteoarthritic knees. Credit: stockdevil/123RF Stock Photo.
Osteoarthritic knees. Credit: stockdevil/123RF Stock Photo.

This UKRI project from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is a powerful example of true interdisciplinary and translational research driven by a vision of the world and healthcare technologies need in 2050 and the solutions offered by novel Science and Engineering.

Professor Mark Bradley

Friday, June 5, 2020
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