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14 November 2005 PR 05/109

Seeing under the skin to reveal early signs of heart disease and stroke

A revolutionary diagnostic technique that sees under the skin sounds rooted in the realms of science fiction. But an invention akin to the Star Trek small handheld body scanner that shines light into the skin to detect early signs of heart disease and stroke could be on the market in less than two years.

The painless test takes no more than five minutes to detect Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD), a condition that affects over 90 million people worldwide. What starts off as blood flow problems in the feet can develop fatal consequences if left unchecked. Once diagnosed, one in three people die within five years. But many deaths are preventable through early diagnosis, which is the aim of Dr Vincent Crabtree’s invention, PADD. Crabtree, an optical engineer from Loughborough University, was inspired by the plight of his grandfather who died at 55 after having his leg amputated due to PVD.

PADD represents a futuristic way to check out circulatory health that uses an infrared light beam no more powerful than a TV remote control. Quick and simple to use, this state of the art technology could replace the ankle brachial pressure index, a traditional pressure cuff measurement system.

“Current screening is time-consuming and requires skilled operators. It is also particularly unreliable on diabetics, who are extremely susceptible to PVD,” Crabtree explains. He continues: “PADD does not require any specialist training; it’s easy and safe to use and will be ideal for busy vascular clinics and GP surgeries.”

An infra red probe is held to the foot for a couple of minutes to assess how well the blood supply adapts to forces of gravity caused by postural changes such as getting out of bed and standing up. The prototype technology is now undergoing a large clinical study at the Royal Free Hospital, London. PADD is expected to have regulatory approval in Europe and America within two years.

“If PVD is picked up early enough, many deaths could be prevented by better diet, exercise, drugs or surgery,” adds Jody Brown, CEO of Dialog Devices, the company launched to commercialise PADD. She continues, “The technology is attracting a lot of interest. We have raised £0.25M in venture capital and awards and started discussions with major medical device distributors. With a large scale trial already underway, the next step is to scale the prototype into a hand held, portable device.”

PADD has just been announced as a finalist at the Medical Futures Innovation Awards that attracted a record 1,200 entries from throughout the health care industry. The annual awards are widely regarded as the pre-eminent platform to unite high-level policy makers, strategic thinkers and grassroots practitioners and serve to promote excellence in medical innovation.

ENDS

For further information please contact

Anna Seddon, Loughborough University Enterprises Ltd,
T: 01509 223445, E A.J.Seddon@lboro.ac.uk

Dr Vincent Crabtree, Dialog Devices Ltd,
T: 01509 227059, E: V.P.Crabtree@lboro.ac.uk

Jody Brown, Dialog Devices Ltd,
T: 07764 570163

Hannah Baldwin, Head of PR, Loughborough University,
T: 01509 222239, E: H.E.Baldwin@lboro.ac.uk

Notes to editors

  1. Images are available on request from Anna Seddon
  2. Loughborough has an established reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry, and unrivalled sporting achievement. Assessments of teaching quality by the Quality Assurance Agency place Loughborough in the top flight of UK universities. The National Student Survey ranked Loughborough equal first among full-time students, and industry highlights the University in its top five for graduate recruitment. Around 40% of Loughborough's income is for research, and 60% for teaching. The University has been awarded four Queen's Anniversary Prizes: for its collaboration with aerospace and automotive companies such as BAE Systems, Ford and Rolls Royce; for its work in developing countries; for pioneering research in optical engineering; and for its world-leading role in sports research, education and development.

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