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Friday, 20 September, 2002, 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK
'Star Trek device' could detect illness
The discovery could mean an end to tests like this
British scientists have developed a Star Trek style device which measures vital health signs without the need for skin contact.

Researchers at Loughborough University believe their technology could one day be used to measure blood flow, monitor the heart and assess how well wounds and burns are healing.

The technique involves shining a light on a specific part of the body. Potential health problems are identified by measuring how much light is absorbed.


Future applications for this technology could be extensive

Vincent Crabtree, researcher
The technology has echoes of the devices used by doctors in the futuristic television series.

The technology, developed by Professor Peter Smith and colleagues, is based on a conventional technique, called photoplethysmography (PPG).

Wave measurement

It measures how much light is absorbed by the body through pulse waves. The size of these waves are determined by properties in the blood and how much light is absorbed by the tissue.

PPG is already used to measure blood flow in parts of the body. However, the difference with the Loughborough technology is that no skin contact is required.

The light can be emitted and measured from a small distance. The researchers have developed a computer programme to take account of variations that might occur as a result of body movement.

Vincent Crabtree, one of the researchers on the project, said further studies were needed before the technology could have a more widespread use.

Speaking at the Photon02 conference in Cardiff, he said: "Future applications for this technology could be extensive.

"However, the remote PPG signal quality has only been investigated over a range of several centimetres so far."

See also:

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