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£6.1 million secured to transform healthcare with deep ultraviolet light

September 2020: The U-Care project aims to develop new treatments for dangerous infections and inoperable tumours – two of the biggest challenges in modern medicine.

The project was one of six funded from UKRI-EPSRC's Healthcare Technologies Call to transform the way patients are treated and cared for in the NHS by 2050.

U-Care will exploit deep ultraviolet (UV) light, which doesn't occur naturally on earth, to kill infection and guard against looming public health crises like antimicrobial resistance. The team will also investigate whether deep UV light can be used to remove tissues with extreme precision, and if this could lead to breakthroughs in cancer treatment.

The project combines clinical, translational healthcare technology and biology expertise from researchers at the University of Edinburgh, with novel optical fibre and deep UV light research from the University of Bath and Heriot Watt University.

Professor Robert Thomson from Heriot-Watt University said:

Some wavelengths of ultraviolet light are known for their germicidal properties, but can cause cancer in human tissues. That's the problem we'll solve. We will develop technologies that generate ultraviolet light at just the right wavelength, where the light remains germicidal but without the harmful effects. We'll also develop technologies to deliver this light precisely, such as optical fibres to transport it into the body without causing further harm.

Patient groups, NHS partners, charities and industry will be central to the five-year project, helping to shape the technology and make sure it is ready for patient use.

Professor Kev Dhaliwal from the University of Edinburgh said:

We urgently need new ways of treating and preventing infections especially with approaches that microbes are unable to resist.

U-Care will  bring together researchers from many disciplines to co-create technology and methods that could prevent and treat infections in hospitalised patients, but it needs to be acceptable and comfortable for patients, that's why we'll be partnering with patient groups, clinical teams, industry and healthcare charities throughout the project.

The second capability of precision therapy for cancers would be transformative. Instead of doctors looking at scans and saying 'Sorry, we can’t do anything, because the tumour is unresectable',or patients having to have revision operations, we could reach, visualise and resect margins of tumours with unprecedented safety and precision.

The U-Care team aims to have its first prototype ready for testing in patients within three years.