University of Bath

07/03/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/04/2024 08:47

UV or not UV? How deep UV light could revolutionise healthcare

Routing lasers past obstacles is a key challenge in surgery

A special form of ultraviolet (UV) that can target cancerous cells with extreme precision, revolutionising healthcare in the future, is being introduced to the public at this week's Royal Society Science Exhibition in London.

The u-Care project - which brings together engineers, physicists, clinicians and biologists from Heriot-Watt University and the Universities of Bath and Edinburgh - aims to use deep UV light to cut away tumour cells without harming the surrounding healthy tissues.

By using optical fibres - like those that carry the internet - to deliver low wavelengths of UV light, the scientists hope to achieve ultraprecision surgery that could ensure complete resection of even the tiniest of tumours.

The team will be sharing their research with the public at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in July, an annual celebration of cutting-edge research taking place across the UK.

This year, 14 flagship exhibits, 40 talks, 30 hands-on activities and more than 250 scientists will inspire over 10,000 visitors, including school groups, families and science enthusiasts, over six days.

The u-Care exhibit, "UV or not UV?", will allow visitors to try their hand at being a laser physicist by aiming a laser at a target brain, design their own UV reactive wristbands, and marvel at a chandelier made from the 'drop-offs' from the optical fibre production process.

Robert Thomson, Professor of Photonics at Heriot-Watt University and u-Care project lead, said: "We urgently need to develop new therapies to target some of the biggest challenges facing medicine today - from the emergence of drug-resistant 'super-bugs' to finding ways of performing cellular precision surgery for cancers to improve patient outcomes.

"UV light could provide a solution to these looming public health crises.

"Presenting our research at the Royal Society's Summer Science Exhibition is an amazing opportunity to reach new audiences, talk about our work in-depth and inspire the next generation with this revolutionary research."

Professor William Wadsworth, who is a member of the Bath team, added: "We're really looking forward to presenting our research to visitors at the exhibition. Through this project, our PhD student Robbie Mears and post-doctoral researcher Dr Kerrianne Harrington have made exceptional progress in pushing the performance of hollow optical fibres in the deep ultraviolet.

"They have reached the point where the wavelengths of light are so short that the light cannot even travel through air because it is absorbed by oxygen and water molecules in the air."

Funded through the 'Transformative Healthcare Technologies for 2050' call from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) in 2020, the u-Care project is made up of 35 researchers spread across the three contributing universities.

Heading the Bath team is Professor Tim Birks. Also part of the team are Professor Jonathan Knight and Dr Jim Stone. All six researchers from the University of Bath are part of the Department of Physics.

Team u-Care will be exhibiting at the Royal Society, Carlton House Terrace, London from Wednesday July 3 until Sunday July 7, with a special 18+ lates evening on Tuesday 2 July.