Innovative Use of Technology
Dr John Arkwright & Dr Philip Dinning
Dose of Fibre Optics Aids Colon Diseases
Just as the Hubble Telescope allowed us to view places in the universe we had never seen before, a fibre-optic catheter is revolutionising medical technology and giving us previously unimagined images inside the human colon.
And like the great leap in knowledge provided by Hubble's pictures from deep space, the new catheter is increasing our understanding of science - in this case the mechanics of the human digestive system.
Using this innovative catheter, Dr Philip Dinning, at the Department of Human Physiology at Flinders University, and Dr John Arkwright, of CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering, have recorded pressures deep within the colon while the patient is fully mobile and conscious.
For their creation of a new medical tool, which is opening paths for advanced treatments of socially taboo illnesses such as constipation, diarrhoea, faecal incontinence and irritable bowel syndrome, Dr Dinning and Dr Arkwright have won the 2011 Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology.
The prize is part of the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, the most prestigious awards in Australian science. The winners were announced last night at a star-studded evening for the country's most inspired minds.
‘The Eurekas,' as they are fondly known, have become the most coveted science awards in this country. Every scientist knows a ‘eureka' moment comes after decades of singular dedication, deep inquiry and rich collaboration. Receiving an Australian Museum Eureka Prize is regarded as a pinnacle achievement for any Australian scientist.
"The work of doctors Dinning and Arkwright serves as a great example of what can be achieved when we apply known technologies ‘out of the box'," says Frank Howarth, Director of the Australian Museum. "While their work has rightly garnered international acclaim and is already leading to better treatment outcomes for sufferers of gastrointestinal disease, it is a testament to the novelty of the design that their work is also generating discussion within the fibre-optics world."
Gastrointestinal disorders are a major health issue that have a significant impact on quality of life - affecting 20 per cent of the population at an annual cost of $US10 billion worldwide. However, until now, they have been hard to diagnose and cure because of a lack of understanding and accuracy around what exactly is happening inside the gut.
Dr Dinning and Dr Arkwright have overcome these limitations by adapting fibre-optic technologies that are ubiquitous in telecommunications and increasingly common in large-scale sensing applications. Their medical tool enables real-time monitoring of the human gastrointestinal tract.
The inherent advantages of optical fibre, including its small diameter and high flexibility, have allowed the researchers to record pressures deep inside the gastrointestinal tract with high resolution over extended lengths of time while the patient is awake and mobile.
Their studies have revealed that the previous best catheter technology may have missed or mislabelled up to 90 per cent of backward and 40 per cent of forward propagating pressure waves. These results from clinical trials have created their own waves within the gastrointestinal community, with global leaders lobbying the researchers to gain access to the technology, which they are currently licensing.
While designed specifically for gastrointestinal use, the technology is not limited to this field and already interest is growing in the areas of urology and cardiology. It also has applications in infrastructure and hazardous environment monitoring, with the Victorian Government considering its use in water pipe monitoring.
The $10,000 Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology is awarded to an Australian individual, group or organisation that has used new or existing technology in an innovative way that has significantly improved the outcome of their research. It is sponsored by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).
Media please contact Katie McMurray, KatieMac Publicity,0422 590 321, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr John Arkwright
CSIRO Materials Science and Engineering, NSW
Dr Philip Dinning
Flinders University and UNSW/St George Hospital, SA