New futuristic 'sick bay' unveiled by University of Leicester
The team has combined cutting edge technologies from the worlds of emergency medicine, space research and chemistry to create a world-first non-invasive disease detection facility.
The Diagnostics Development Unit is designed to detect the “sight, smell and feel” of disease without the use of invasive probes, blood tests, or other time-consuming and uncomfortable procedures, taking advantage of research currently applied to monitoring climate change and searching for life on Mars.
The design of the Unit, which scans the patient with a selection of instruments while lying in a hospital bed, brings us one step closer to the sick bays of science fiction shows such as Star Trek.
The Unit, funded by the University and a £500,000 infrastructure grant from the Higher Education Funding Council, utilises three main sets of instruments:
One group of instruments (developed in the University’s Chemistry Department) analyses gases present in a patient’s breath.
A second uses imaging systems and technologies - developed to explore the universe - to hunt for signs of disease via the surface of the human body.
The third uses a suite of monitors to look inside the body and measure blood-flow and oxygenation in real-time.
The combination of these technologies in this fashion is a world first and testing will soon begin with patients at the Leicester Royal Infirmary. It is hoped it that the DDU can be used in the early diagnosis of a wide range of diseases from things like sepsis through to bacterial infections such as C. Difficile and some cancers.
With over 40 possible applications to date, the researchers now aim to determine the best possibilities for diagnosis and to focus research on those. Eventually, it is hoped that the expertise in miniaturisation in the Space Research Centre will allow this technology to lead to a ‘tricorder’ style handheld device, again from the world of Star Trek.
University of Leicester researchers from space research, emergency medicine and Chemistry, worked with colleagues in Cardiovascular Sciences, Infection, Immunity and Inflammation, Physics and Astronomy, Engineering, IT Services and the Leicester Royal Infirmary to create the Unit.