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MDX wins more than £650,000 in UKRI Covid response funding for lung monitoring device trial

CoRLEIT, an adaptation of MDX's CRADL project, could have major impact on Covid patient outcomes

A MDX-led team has received a major grant from UKRI’s fund for research and innovation to tackle Covid for a £671,332 project being conducted in Glasgow over the next 18 months.

Professor of Biophysics and Engineering Richard Bayford leads the research with Andreas Demosthenous, Professor of Analogue and Biomedical Electronics at University College London and Dr Chris Carlin, Consultant Respiratory Physician at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

The investigators include: Dr Andy Bardill, Director of redLoop, the Middlesex University Design and Innovation Centre, Dr Andrew Tizzard, Middlesex University and Dr Rebecca Yerworth, University College London.

Named CoRLEIT – which stands for Covid Regional Lung Electrical Impedance Tomography – the research is an extension of the MDX co-ordinated CRADL project, an imaging technique to monitor premature babies’ lungs and provide early warning of respiratory failure which ran for three years from 2016.

There is an urgent need for a low-cost bedside imaging system to detect changes in COVID patients’ lung ventilation, since existing monitoring poorly predicts sudden deterioration in patients with the condition.

View over Glasgow City Centre. 

Electrical Impedance Tomography (EIT), which uses small electric currents to create images that represent the change in air volume in the lung as it functions, addresses this.

It enables treatment strategies to be optimised with the aim of minimising lung fibrosis (scarring) and improving patient outcomes.

For CoRLEIT, the CRADL imaging system is being repurposed with a larger, adult-size disposable electrode belt, developed with West Midlands-based Printed Electronics Ltd. Versions of the device should be available for use in other studies from relatively early on in the project, to meet demand for rapid research into the effectiveness and timing of respiratory support treatment strategies such as prone positioning.

The CoRLEIT study aims to provide, within six months, an integrated first clinical prototype for use in intensive care units, which can be scaled up for high volume manufacture of a validated, low-cost monitoring system.

The research team plans to evaluate 100 Covid patients over the course of 18 months.

Professor Bayford (pictured below) says: “Physicians want to see what's going on in the lungs, and wearable technology is the only technology that can do this.

"CoRLEIT can provide you 100 images of lung operation, showing whether it has recruited and blown up. For Covid we hope this becomes the standard tool that will tell clinicians if this patient is OK, or if they aren’t”.

Professor Demosthenous says: “EIT is the only safe, affordable imaging modality, allowing for continuous monitoring of patients at the bedside. It offers the advantage of being portable and comfortable for patients whilst exhibiting high temporal resolution. CoRLET will provide real-time pulmonary function dynamic information for diagnosis and post-recovery monitoring of Covid patients.”

Dr Carlin says: “EIT can provide detailed non-invasive respiratory physiology monitoring. It allows deteriorations to be immediately recognised and responded to, and treatment effects to be measured.

"The challenge has been delivering EIT at scale outside of clinical trials and specialist centres. Continuous monitoring with the easy to apply low cost system that CoRLEIT will establish will address this, opening-up the possibility of a new respiratory failure management paradigm, based on visualising ventilation in real-time.”

Associate Professor in Product Design and Engineering at Middlesex University Andy Bardill says: "EIT is the ideal technology to fill this need for non-invasive bedside monitoring of lung function, but the cost of use per patient can be high and wearable electrode belts difficult to manufacture at large scale. Our new belt overcomes these difficulties at a time when EIT can make a real impact in positive outcomes for hospitalised patients".

Notes:  The full research team is: Professor Richard Bayford FInstP, FInstIPEM, RFSB, SMIEEE, SFHE (Middlesex University). Expertise is biomedical imaging, instrumentation and biosensors. He has worked as Principal Investigator on many EPSRC, EU and industrial sponsored research projects (£12M+ funding). He has published 300+ papers. He is the coordinator on a €5.5M H2020 grant (CRADL; www.craldproject.org).

Professor Demosthenous (UCL) FIEEE, FIET, CEng. Expertise bioelectronics, integrated circuit design, system architectures and signal processing. He has worked on many projects funded by the EPSRC, EU and industry (£10M+ funding) as PI. He has published 300+ papers.

Dr Carlin (NHS) Consultant Physician & NHS Research Scotland Senior Investigator Sleep and Respiratory Medicine NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. Contributed to multiple commercial and investigator-led projects and published extensively.

Dr Bardill is Director of the Design and Innovation Centre at Middlesex University. Expertise is product, service and interaction design, innovation and technology development. He has previous and ongoing work with Bayford and Demeothenous on CRADL and other related medical device projects. The Innovation Centre focusses on human-centric design solutions, design for manufacture at scale and developing industrial partnerships to get devices out of the lab and into use.

Dr Yerworth (UCL) led the User Interface development and data analysis software for CRADL.

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