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Pioneering technology for the detection of diseases arrives at DMU

Pioneering new technology that could help to prevent disease and enable people to live healthier lifestyles has arrived at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).

The machine analyses blood and urine samples to detect early warning signs for diseases such as diabetes and also indicates where changes could be made to give a healthier lifestyle.

NMR 3

Working in partnership with Magritek, who manufacture the technology, academics from DMU will be working to develop the equipment to make it suitable for point-of-care use and the immediate benefit of NHS patients.

The equipment, called a ‘benchtop NMR facility’, works much more quickly than traditional blood or urine sample tests and could change the way that diseases are detected in the future. Diabetes, for example, could be detected up to ten years before the onset of disease.

The small size of the machine also means that it can easily be used in GP surgeries, taken into communities or used privately.

Professor Martin Grootveld and Dr. Philippe Wilson will lead the team at DMU working on the project, and Prof. Grootveld believes that the research could have a ground-breaking impact.

He said: “The experiments we’re conducting are very pioneering and the first of their kind. We’re looking at diagnosis of human diseases from biological fluids in a facility which could be possible for point-of-care use in the future.”

Dr. Wilson, who was recently named in Forbes 30 under 30 list of the brightest young innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders in Europe for the field of science and healthcare, said the machine could ultimately save the NHS huge amounts of money within a few years.

He said: “This is really a breakthrough technology, it's very easy to see where the cost saving for the NHS can come and obviously how the patients could improve their outcomes.

“What we need to do now is show the NHS that this machine can tell the difference between a diabetic patient and a non-diabetic patient.

“We’re initially studying diabetes because it is part of the NHS plan for the next few years and it is a significant disease that costs the NHS billions of pounds every year. Four to six percent of that cost is recoverable through early diagnosis and early treatment, which this machine could contribute to.

“It could be two to three years when these machines can actually be found in GP surgeries and people start really benefiting from them.”

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Dr. Mark Martin, a Senior House Officer in Urology and NHS England Clinical Entrepreneur, will also be working on the project. He believes that this technology could lead to significant improvements to patients in the NHS. The Clinical Entrepreneur Programme is a national education programme providing mentoring and training to innovative and entrepreneurial clinicians to develop and scale innovations in the NHS.

Dr. Martin said: “We can detect metabolites at a molecular level that can help us to diagnose diseases such as diabetes much earlier than current methods. It can help us to become better diagnosticians and ultimately improve patient outcomes.”

“Diabetes could be detected up to ten years before the onset of disease which could have a big impact on whether or not to start medication, as well as other industries such as health insurance”.

“We will be able to pick up diseases years before they start in younger and healthier people. This technology won’t replace doctors but it will allow them to make more informed decisions.”

NMR 1

Whereas technology such as this has only previously been used in multi-million pound laboratories, the benchtop NMR machine has the ability to be much more widely used. It is also at this stage dependant on the high-field larger 400 MHz NMR facility at the Leicester School of Pharmacy, which will be instrumental in validating the data that the team will be collecting with the near-portable machine.

“The beauty of this technology becoming benchtop is that it is going to be much more accessible,” Dr. Martin explained.

Dr. Wilson added: “It’s also possible for this technology to be used in communities or even privately, the cost of the benchtop NMR machine means that wealthy people will be able to afford to have one in their home which can be operated by their own doctors.”

Posted on Wednesday 28th March 2018

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