AI X-ray scanner and robotic muscles could be adopted by NHS

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The UK government has awarded £32m in funding to six healthcare technology projects which could be incorporated into regular NHS care by 2050.

According to the Science Minister Amanda Solloway, the projects aim to transform care in the NHS by 2050 and improve quality of life for older people.

The investments are part of the UK government’s R&D Roadmap, which aims to transform the UK into a “science superpower” and increase public investment in R&D to £22bn by 2024-2025.

“The pioneering projects we are backing today will help modernise healthcare, improving all of our lives now and into the future,” she said, in a statement. “Today’s announcement underlines our commitment to back our incredible scientists and researchers and invest in ground-breaking research to keep the UK ahead in cutting-edge discoveries.”

InlightenUS, led by the University of Edinburgh, will receive £5.4m to combine AI and infra-red lasers to provide fast, high-resolution 3D images which could be used to identify disease more quickly. By 2050, it is hoped that patients may be able to walk through airport-style X-ray scanners which will be able to pick up detailed images of internal structures to reveal the presence of cancer and osteoporosis.

The emPOWER project, led by the University of Bristol, will receive £6m to develop highly-targeted robotic muscular assistance to help restore strength to people who have lost muscle capability, including patients with degenerative diseases like muscular dystrophy.

Imperial College scientists received £5.5m to develop 'Non-Invasive Single Neuron Electrical Monitoring' technology, which will be combined with AI to allow researchers to monitor the brain in a way never achieved before. This could help scientists better understand devastating neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and hopefully enable new pharmacological and neurotechnology-based treatments.

Other projects include Edinburgh Napier University’s COG-MHEAR, led by Edinburgh Napier University, to develop hearing aids designed to autonomously adapt to quality of their surroundings; the University of Glasgow’s project to create a home of the future, incorporating sensors to monitor blood flow, heart rate and brain function; and Heriot-Watt University’s project to use new laser, optical fibre and imaging technologies to deliver extremely precise therapies to confined parts of the body such as the lungs (including cutting out single cancerous cells while leaving surrounding cells undamaged).

The funding is being delivered through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) call for 'Transformative Healthcare Technologies for 2050'.

Professor Dame Lynn Gladden, EPSRC executive chair, commented: “The projects announced today will develop new approaches which could become routine in the NHS and community and home care in the coming decades. Harnessing the latest technologies and the UK’s world-leading expertise will allow us to deliver a step-change in how healthcare is delivered and benefit millions of people, emphasising the critical role the UK’s R&D sector plays in improving the health of the nation.”

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