Diagnosing COPD disease
Swansea scientists pioneer search for technology-based solution to diagnose COPD disease
Dr Paul Lewis with handheld device SEM image of Sputum sample
Welsh-based Glyconics Ltd and Swansea University’s Centre for NanoHealth have set up a partnership to develop a hand-held miniaturised device to diagnose and predict the exacerbation of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in patients.
With the support of the Swansea team, Glyconics have been awarded a Small Business Research Initiative for Healthcare (SBRI Healthcare) development contract for an initial feasibility study to assess the clinical performance of the miniaturised FTIR device.
SBRI Healthcare is an NHS England initiative, championed by the newly formed Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs), who aim to promote UK economic growth whilst addressing unmet health needs and enhancing the take up of known best practice.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is a common, progressively disabling disease and a major health burden worldwide. It is not a single disease, but an umbrella term used to describe a spectrum of chronic lung diseases that cause limitations in lung airflow, and includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Within the next seven years, COPD is predicted to be the third leading cause of death worldwide and the fifth most common cause of disability in the world.
The technology, which has been developed by Dr Paul Lewis of Swansea University’s Centre for NanoHealth (CNH), will be commercialised by Glyconics with Dr Lewis who will be responsible for co-ordinating all technology evaluation, development and clinical programmes.
Dr Berwyn Clarke, CEO of Glyconics Ltd, said: “In the UK, COPD is estimated to affect some six million people causing 24 million working days to be lost, at a cost of nearly £4 billion per year from reduced productivity and is responsible for more than 25,000 deaths annually.
“As the disease progresses patients develop increasingly frequent and severe exacerbations and have an increased rate of hospitalisation. This hand-held technology not only allows more accurate diagnosis of COPD at the point-of-care but is also able to detect the onset of exacerbations very early. This is extremely important to the NHS since exacerbations are a major factor in the £1 billion per annum cost of managing COPD.”
COPD is currently an under-diagnosed condition, with some 50% of sufferers unaware of their diagnosis. Poor recognition and treatment of respiratory failure increases the risk of mortality; there is thus a currently un-met need to improve diagnostic rates, reduce the burden of exacerbations and prevent the need for hospital admissions.
However, there is currently no existing gold-standard or state-of-the-art technology available to identify early markers of disease exacerbation in COPD.
Dr Lewis has identified the potential of using Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy as a rapid, cost-effective and non-invasive technology for COPD diagnosis and prediction of exacerbation.
However, current FTIR equipment is prohibitively expensive, restricting any widespread and cost-effective uptake of the methodology. The recent availability of miniaturised components for low cost instruments now offers the opportunity to transform clinical accessibility.
Dr Lewis’ team are a leading laboratory in the study of infrared spectroscopy for analysis of mucin structure and glycosylation relevant to respiratory disease. They lead the Medlung UK multi-centre trial for respiratory diagnostics and have identified patterns in the sputum of patients which are unique to COPD and which have been filed for patents. Further research into other specific respiratory disease patterns are already underway and show promising potential.
The development contract from SBRI Healthcare will enable the implementation of a feasibility study to explore the potential to provide a technology-based solution that can be simply introduced as a means to identify disease severity, disease progression and an early indication of exacerbation.
Dr Lewis states “Utilising infrared COPD biomarkers and modern electronic and optical components, the ultimate goal is to develop a hand-held, miniaturised FTIR device for easy detection and monitoring by healthcare workers at the point-of-care.
This Phase 1 study will hopefully prepare the ground for a full Phase 2 project, through evaluation of the technical, clinical, regulatory, and commercial viability of the technology, and the preparation of a full implementation and commercial strategy.”
Hi-tech Diabetes Aid
Funding boost brings Welsh-developed hi-tech diabetes aid a step closer to reality
Research at Swansea University to develop a hi-tech diabetes aid which could save patients’ lives by sending an SMS alert to emergency personnel if they suffer a hypoglycaemia attack has received a further funding boost.
The research to develop an easy to use, minimally-invasive, low cost continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system has been awarded a further grant of more than £114,600 from the Welsh Government, through its EU funded Academic Expertise for Business (A4B) programme.
The work led by Dr Vincent Teng, a nanoelectronics expert from the University’s College of Engineering, began in autumn 2011, following an initial project grant of £470,000 from the A4B programme.
The first project has already made significant progress towards a CGM device and this further funding will enable Dr Teng work to continue on a second project until the end of 2014, bringing the device closer to reality through the development of a preclinical trial prototype device.
The second project involves scientists and the state-of-the-art facilities at the University’s Centre for NanoHealth (CNH) to develop this next-generation device.
The device is based on the novel application of nanotechnology and micro-needles, and it allows painless, continuous monitoring of glucose levels that is useful in managing and controlling the disease.
The use of wireless technology will enable readings to be relayed from the sensor to a mobile device and it will also provide an emergency alert to the patient’s nominated next of kin or medical personnel if the patient is in danger of suffering a hypoglycaemia attack.
Economy Minister Edwina Hart said: “The A4B programme is designed to harness the knowledge, expertise and facilities that exist within our academic institutions, help stimulate business ideas and launch new products and processes for the economic benefit for Wales. This project has the additional benefit of potentially improving the quality of life of millions of people suffering from diabetes.”
Dr Teng, who leads the Nanoelectronics Research Group within the Multidisciplinary Nanotechnology Centre in the College of Engineering, said: “Diabetes is a long term chronic disease that can only be controlled and not cured. The disease can lead to many health complications, even death, if it is not managed properly.
“The technology we are developing at Swansea aims to address a significant challenge for healthcare – supporting diabetics to effectively manage their own condition while not isolating them from their care providers.
“An effective monitoring system will reduce the risk of health complications associated with diabetes, enhancing the patient’s quality of life. We are delighted to receive this further funding from the Welsh Government through the A4B programme, which brings the realisation of this device and the positive effects it will have on patients’ lives a step closer.”
The monitoring system being developed at Swansea University will also have the capability to be adapted for other chronic conditions, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer and asthma.
5th March 2014
CNH Dentistry Event
Centre for NanoHealth conducts all-day Dentistry Event
3rd March 2014
Swansea University’s Centre for NanoHealth (CNH) recently conducted an all-day Dentistry Event, featuring speakers from the dental industry, the NHS, and academia. Hosted by the Centre for NanoHealth, the event offered networking opportunities, as well as information on the latest technological developments within the dentistry sector.
Established in 2009, the CNH is an open innovation environment facilitating companies, researchers, NHS clinicians and academics to develop new generation healthcare using Nanotechnology.
The event, attended by more than thirty dentists from across Wales, was chaired by Dr Paul Lewis, Associate Professor at Swansea University. Delegates were able to hear presentations from leading consultants, Mr Conor Marnane, a Consultant in Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery at Singleton Hospital and Mr James Owens, a Consultant in Restorative Dentistry and Oral Rehabilitation at Morriston Hospital.
Along with Dr Georgina Menzies, a researcher based in the CNH at Swansea University, topics discussed included the Human Papilloma Virus and the oral/ oropharyngeal cancer epidemic, post-surgical oral rehabilitation and early detection of oropharyngeal and laryngeal cancer by optical spectroscopy.
Mr Conor Marnane said “This event provided a forum to network and share educational opportunities with dental and university colleagues. As a Head and Neck Surgeon, I was able to take this opportunity to present an update in new developments in the field of oral cancer diagnosis and treatment. Dental surgeons have an important role to play in the early diagnosis of oral cancers and an event like this, where so many dental surgeons are together, provided an excellent opportunity for education and discussion on this important and increasingly common health problem. “
Mr Marnane also stated “We also took opportunity to present to the attendees the results of a potentially ground breaking collaborative research project that has been carried out by the Centre for Nanohealth at Swansea University and the ENT department in Singleton Hospital into a novel method of early diagnosis of cancer using samples of saliva that could one day provide a cheap simple way of screening for oral cancer in a dental surgery or a GP practice.”
Dental technology was highlighted in the event’s afternoon sessions. Dr Owen Guy presented on the latest research and collaborative opportunities taking place at the CNH, followed by a tour of the facilities where delegates were able to view first-hand the state-of-the-art equipment and meet leading researchers working at the centre. The tour included visiting the category 2 biomedical suite of laboratories offering cell and molecular biology capabilities, including confocal microscopy, and high-throughput/ high-content analytical systems, microbiology, regenerative medicine and tissue engineering and nano-genotoxicology.
Gareth Tomkinson from Renishaw then gave a demonstration on CAD/CAM Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing and the use of 3D printing in dentistry. With its expanding list of high-precision measurement and manufacturing technologies, Renishaw is fast becoming a major dental framework and equipment supplier. This was followed by a demonstration by Jackie Cooper, UK Laser Product Manager at Henry Schein Dental, on how laser technology is used in dentistry.
Following the event, Mr James Owens said: “It was an excellently run event combining current dental practice and cutting edge new technologies. I was impressed with the CNH facility and the amount of innovative work being carried out there”.
Dr Chris Wright talks on the future to Biomaterials
The field of biomaterials is advancing at a rapid pace arguably a legacy of developments within the field of nanotechnology that have established methods to fabricate, modify and characterise biomaterials and bioprocesses at scales previously not possible. This is accompanied by the exciting developments we are witnessing, almost every week, in the fields of tissue engineering and cell therapies. Biomaterials research will need to maintain its momentum in order for the realisation of the full potential of regenerative medicine. Notable recent research examples include the construction of living webs and tissue through the electro spinning of cells within a biodegradable polymer scaffold, the bioprinting of cells for tissue or food and the use of nanotopographical patterns on biomedical plastic to differentiate bone cells from human embryonic stem cells.
A lot of research endeavour continues to create biomaterials with increased functionality in terms of nanoscale morphology coupled with the control of the biomaterial surface’s chemical and physical interactions. The spatial resolution of functionality is constantly improving with advances in polymer and macromolecular immobilisation techniques. The ultimate aims of this research are to improve the biocompatibility, immune system stealth, drug release and in the future provide reporting on the disease state and functioning of the biomaterial construct.
Electrospinning NanoSpider at CNH
To provide example of current trends in biomaterials research I can look to Swansea University and within the Centre for NanoHealth where we have focussed activity on the pipeline of biomaterial development from fundamental research and the conception of novel systems to optimisation and scale up. We have recently established an electrospinning R & D resource that builds on our rheometry and microscopy characterisation capabilities within nanotechnology. We use a standard needle electrospinning system to create novel biomaterial scaffolds such as wound dressings with nanoparticles of controlled morphology immobilised in nanofibres to fight bacterial infection (Figure 1) and nano fibres with a sheath and a core of different materials for drug delivery and tissue engineering (Figure 2). In order to scale up the fabrication process we are now exploiting bowl electrospinnning (Nanospider, Elmarco), which allows scaffold production on a much larger scale for commercialisation.
The future of biomaterials is very promising and there are some key fields that will provide some exciting achievements in the near future. The influence of the mechanical properties of the biomaterial substrata on stem cell differentiation has been reported and more recently the induction of stem cell plasticity by the control of the culture environment’s acidity. We can conjecture that researchers will take the next step and examine the plasticity of stem cells as controlled by their physical and biochemical interaction with the biomaterial that houses them. Indeed, as the production of stem cells becomes easier then production of personalised bespoke biomaterials will be enabled by the coating or construction of implants with the patient’s own cells, thuavoiding immune response problems. 3D printing is now ubiquitous and the field of biomaterials is no exception, however the technology is moving rapidly from production of prototype medical implant structures to full scale production. As in every field of engineering it is intriguing to speculate how the improved availability of 3 D printing will impact on biomaterial research, industry and application.
Figure 1 Scanning electron microscopy image of silver nanoparticles, of controllable size, captured in a polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) nanofibre fibre as part of a novel wound dressing biomaterial (Courtesy of L.Burke, Swansea University).
Figure 2 Scanning electron microscopy image of a coaxial spun tissue engineering scaffold showing the chitosan sheath and polyethylene oxide (PEO) fibre core (Courtesy of L.Burke, Swansea University).
3 February 2014