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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S001506/1
Title: Nanocomposite materials for sensing in next-generation minimally-invasive medical devices
Principal Investigator: Noimark, Dr S
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Barts Health NHS Trust Philips
Department: Medical Physics and Biomedical Eng
Organisation: UCL
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship - NHFP
Starts: 25 June 2018 Ends: 24 June 2021 Value (£): 582,276
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Med.Instrument.Device& Equip. Optical Devices & Subsystems
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Healthcare
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
10 May 2018 EPSRC UKRI CL Innovation Fellowship Interview Panel 9 - 10 and 11 May 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
My vision for the EPSRC UKRI Innovation Fellowship is to create a new generation of cutting-edge medical devices for minimally-invasive surgeries, using Materials Chemistry innovations. The devices I will develop will provide improved imaging for guidance and diagnosis during surgeries, as well as precise device locations for example, in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-guided interventions. These devices will improve the safety and efficiency of minimally-invasive procedures, and help to reduce the risk of associated complications. One of my key objectives is to translate this healthcare technologies research from academia to pre-clinical validation, providing patient benefits through improved healthcare diagnostics and treatments. Through clinical and industrial collaboration, I will take the healthcare technologies developed during this Fellowship from the benchtop to pre-clinical validation, and establish the most appropriate pathways for commercialisation.

Over the course of the Fellowship I will work towards developing a portfolio of medical devices. The two key devices that I will focus on are:

1) A fibre-optic magnetic field sensor: This miniature sensor will be incorporated into medical devices to facilitate their tracking via magnetic sensing.

2) A fibre-optic ultrasound transmitter with photoacoustic (PA) imaging functionality: This miniature ultrasound transmitter and a fibre-optic ultrasound receiver will be integrated into medical devices to help guide minimally-invasive surgical procedures through ultrasound imaging, providing visualisation of clinically-relevant tissue structures with structural and molecular contrast.

The fibre-optic magnetic sensors will be fabricated by creating elastomeric membranes that are highly deformable in the presence of a magnetic field. These will be developed by incorporating nanoscale magnetic particles into elastomers, and using a range of coating techniques to create micron-scale, freestanding membranes. These membranes will be fabricated into fibre-optic sensors that can be integrated into needles and catheters used for minimally-invasive surgeries. When placed within an MRI-scanner, these devices will respond to changes in the magnetic field in the presence of different gradients, enabling precise device tracking. This technology will open up new avenues for MRI-guided interventions.

The fibre-optic ultrasound transmitter with PA imaging functionality will be created using specially engineered coatings deposited onto optical fibres. These coatings will be designed to strongly absorb visible light within specific wavelength regions for ultrasound generation, and demonstrate transparency to light of other wavelengths for PA imaging. Combined with a fibre-optic ultrasound receiver designed at UCL, this miniature imaging system will be integrated into medical devices used to perform minimally-invasive surgical interventions, for example, cardiovascular procedures. The fibre-optic imaging system will provide unparalleled image guidance from within the needle used to perform the surgery, reducing the risk of complications. The combined ultrasound and PA imaging will provide clinicians with information on tissue structure, as well as molecular information i.e. where lipid rich (fatty) regions are. The latter, can be important for diagnosis and monitoring of atherosclerotic plaques, which are a key cause of cardiovascular disease. Next-generation devices will incorporate both magnetic sensing and ultrasound imaging capabilities, to enable ultrasound-guided interventions, with precise device tracking.

The materials technologies developed will also be translated onto centimetre-scale ultrasound sensors to create a handheld, wide-field all-optical imaging system that can provide three-dimensional combined ultrasound and PA imaging. Potential applications of this system include the detection of head-and-neck cancers, as well as peripheral vascular disease.
Key Findings
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