Impact stories

Health and wellbeing research

Donations to support health and wellbeing research at Loughborough, supports multi-disciplinary approaches to some of the world's greatest health challenges. Whether it's dementia, chronic illness or antimicrobial resistance research that you support, please know your donation will impact thousands of people globally.

Dementia research

Dementia research at Loughborough is a ongoing priority for our researchers that spans six different schools. 

As an ageing population is placing greater demands than ever on care services and provision, and presenting new challenges for people wishing to live independently for as long as possible. Reports suggest that 70-80% of the estimated 850,000 people living with dementia continue to live in their own home, making it even more vital to ensure that housing stock is meeting the needs of older people, beyond physical impairment. The government has called for people to “enjoy at least five extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035” and research suggests savings in the region of £1bn could be achieved by the NHS if personal homes were more suitable for elderly patients.

The Disabled Facilities Grant (DFG) is designed to ensure people are enabled to remain independent in their own home but, at best, it only ever reaches 2% of people with a need in any given year. In addition, housing adaptations are currently fairly limited to supporting physical infirmity through level-access showers, stair lifts and ramps, and previously little work has been done to understand how dementia can impact a person’s use of their own home and what retrospective changes can be made to prolong independent living and improve quality of life for the increasing numbers of people living with dementia. Making decisions around home adaptations can be a complex and overwhelming addition for elderly home owners and their families, during times of already increased stress and anxiety.

Through your generosity, our researchers are able to gain a better understanding of what adaptations are needed to have the greatest impact for those with dementia, their families and care providers to make decisions based on specific needs and budget.

Our researchers are working hard to understand what older people and their families want to, or would be willing to, self-fund to remain in their own homes as they age. This insight, along with a better understanding of effective adaptations, are informing the creation of a decision-making framework that guides older people in selecting the package of home adaptations that best suits their need and budget. The team is collaborating with individuals and their families, care providers, product manufacturers, building supply chain and other stakeholders, to develop effective and relevant adaptation packages. 

Our researchers continue to use design to improve home environments for people living with dementia, increasing their chances of remaining at home independently for longer and improving their quality of life. Their research will provide tools and information to make informed decisions about adapting their own homes to meet the changing needs of the occupier(s) as they age, helping them to invest their money wisely to achieve the most appropriate home environment for them. 

We hope to have some more information on the impact of the research and the implications of the pandemic for dementia patients soon. In the meantime, please click here for more information about our dementia research.

COVID-19 Testing Research

"Within weeks we went from testing for bacteria in orange juice to testing for Covid-19 in saliva samples.”

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, funds to health and wellbeing research and where the need is greatest were awarded to a project led by Dr Mark Platt (SSci) and PhD students Rhush Maugi and Marcus Pollard, to fund a four-week validation study into a hand held testing decive capable of quickly screening liquids for the presence of particles (e.g. bacteria, toxins, viruses), using a technique known as resistive pulse or Nanopore sensors.

Originally designed to detect bacteria in orange juice, the group worked as a team to adapt their technology to first detect for signs of the virus and then confirm its presence.  

This testing device is small and portable – about the size of a laptop, with potential to develop even smaller models such as a hand held device – and the team have been investigating its capability to provide both coronavirus pre-screening with results shown on device in less than 5 minutes, and a COVID-19 diagnosis with results shown in less than 20 minutes, by counting and identifying viral particles in a small saliva sample.

The grant from donations enabled the research to validate the technology against lab developed mimics of the virus particles, which was shown to be successful at counting small particles at the limits needed to monitor saliva for COVID-19, and preliminary data for the test to confirm the presence of sars-cov-2 viral particles.

The groups explained: “The technology developed at Loughborough has many applications, the detection of Sars-Cov-2 is one immediate way we can help and demonstrate the power of the research. We are exploring this application alongside many others, from healthcare, food and drink and environmental monitoring, with a growing list of partners from around the world.”  

How this testing unit would work

“The testing unit could sit anywhere and be operated by a non-specialist,” says Rhush, “For instance, you could see it at the entrance to a care home, enabling visitors and care workers to enter safely without carrying coronavirus into the building.”

A visitor would go through a two-stage process, using the testing unit:

Stage One - Monitoring

Temperature tests are now a wide-spread pre-screening tool for COVID-19. However, many people are asymptomatic or have not yet developed the symptoms such as a temperature, so this is not a fool-proof screening method.

Studies show that people infected with coronavirus have an elevated number of viral particles in their saliva, even if other symptoms do not develop. Loughborough’s testing unit uses resistive pulse sensing to count viral particles directly from a saliva sample. The number of particles detected could be displayed on the machine in less than 5 minutes. If the number of particles is shown to be in the normal range, the individual is cleared to proceed (e.g. enter a care home). If the number is high, they may be carrying coronavirus and they would then use the same testing unit for the second test, which could offer a rapid diagnosis of COVID-19.

Stage Two - Covid-19 assay

From the same saliva sample, the unit uses the resistive pulse sensing technology again, this time to identify the nature of the virus. A positive or negative result for coronavirus could be shown on the device in less than 30 minutes.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) research

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most widespread disabling neurological condition of young adults around the world. The Multiple Sclerosis Foundation estimates that MS affects more than 2.3 million people worldwide. There is no cure for MS. Medications are designed to lessen frequency of relapses and slow the progression of the disease, but they don’t address individual symptoms.

Over 60% of people with MS say they experience heat sensitivity which can cause their symptoms get significantly worse. This can be triggered by hot baths, the sun, or exercise. The effects of heat are temporary, but heat sensitivity can be extremely unpleasant. It can have a massive impact on day-to-day activities like working, exercising, or even taking a walk on a warm sunny day.

Researchers at Loughborough are determined to improve the quality of life for people with MS by understanding more about the biology of heat sensitivity to develop more effective solutions to control individual symptoms, and this is where your donations play a key part.

Your support is enabling our researchers to make lives easier for people living with MS.

Researchers at Loughborough University are currently:

  • Investigating mechanisms of skin thermal sensitivity in health and MS patients.
  • MS patients often present reductions in skin temperature sensitivity and this can impair their ability to behaviourally thermoregulate upon exposure to thermal challenges (heat and cold).
  • Acting promptly in response to thermal stress is particularly important for these patients, as many of them experience heat-intolerance and heat-related fatigue. 
  • Understanding of skin thermal sensitivity is altered in this population is critical to design interventions aimed at optimizing thermal protection. 

We hope to have more information on the impact of your donations and the impact of this research over the academic year.