Sci-fi technology to detect disease
Published 01/09/2011 | 00:11
A team of scientists has deployed space age technology similar to that used in science fiction series Star Trek to detect illness at a new "sick bay".
A new hi-tech disease detection facility, developed by the University of Leicester, uses technology that could eventually help develop devices akin to the 'tricorders' from Star Trek - used by medics on the TV show to diagnose illness simply by waving it near a patient - one of the scientists working on the project said.
It will be used in Leicester Royal Infirmary's A&E department and 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.
The new £1 million-plus facility uses three different types of technology in combination, and could speed up diagnosis.
One group of instruments, which was 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 technologies employed in the new Leicester Diagnostics Development Unit have never previously all been used in an integrated manner, scientists said, and some were originally developed for use in planetary research.
Professor Mark Sims, the University of Leicester space scientist who led the project alongside Tim Coats, Professor of Emergency Medicine at the university and head of accident and emergency at Leicester Royal Infirmary, said the technology might also be a first step towards ultimately creating devices like those seen in Star Trek.
He said: "We are replacing doctors' eyes with state-of-the-art imaging systems, replacing the nose with breath analysis, and the "feel of the pulse" with monitoring of blood flow using ultra sound technology and measurement of blood oxygen levels."