28 February 2011

Photonics and medicine are growing together in Europe

The European Network for Biophotonics Photonics4Life (P4L) has been strengthened with the addition of three medical partners. P4L now incorporates a total of 24 European research institutes all working in Biophotonics. This multidisciplinary research area uses light-based technologies for medical and biological questions and thereby makes the full understanding of life processes and the early diagnosis of diseases and their treatment with optical technologies possible. “The new medical partners will be a valuable extension, because they will help us to create applicable health solutions that will help both patients and physicians”, Network Co-ordinator Professor Jürgen Popp says.

The new partners are two university hospitals from Zurich and Munich and the cross border hospital network EurSafety Health‐net from the Netherlands and Germany. They will actively participate in the network’s research and network activities. Further information about the new partners and their workgroups can be found below.

University Hospital Zurich

The Biomedical Optics Research Laboratory (BORL) at the Division of Neonatology (Department of Gynecology), University Hospital Zurich is focused on the development of diagnostic tools using light and their application in research and clinics. The wide field of expertise and research includes three major areas. First to mention is Quantitative near-infrared spectrophotometry (NIRS) and imaging (NIRI), a non-invasive, continuous technique at the bedside, which uses light to analyse tissue. BORL was among the first few groups in this field. The expertise includes the development of instrumentation, software and algorithms. BORL successfully invented, developed and clinically applied technology to study brain oxygenation, perfusion and function also as a wireless system. Another development is a new transcutaneous sensor technology based on smart materials.
Furthermore clinical testing and research, such as the assessment of muscle and brain function, perfusion and oxygenation and the measurement of tissue composition are part of the scientific portfolio. One key application is the functional investigation of the brain. The aim is to develop a method to assess the functional severity of brain lesions in neonatal or adult intensive care patients at the bedside. Brain activity can be observed non-invasively through the intact skull using light. We are using imaging techniques, which allow an online assessment of a whole region of the brain. Generally the range of NIRS and NIRI applications is broad.
The BORL team is strongly interdisciplinary including co-workers with medical, physics and engineering background. The Division of Neonatology is part of the Perinatal Center Zurich and treats 2500 neonates per year, which includes 724 stationary patients and 118 extremely preterm infants. The Neonatology runs one of the few intensive care units for neonates in Switzerland.

EurSafety Health - Dutch/German Network for Patient Safety and Infection Protection

European patient mobility and crossborder health care are of highest priority for Europe. Since primary obstacles for cross border healthcare, such as divergent social funding and insurance systems have been tried to overcome by mutual agreements, differences in quality of healthcare is nowadays one of the most important factors limiting regular crossborder health care.
The principle goal of the EurSafety Health‐net is assuring the highest good in medical healthcare, the patient safety (primum non nocere). Therefore, crossborder research is performed and structural changes are initiated in order to understand infectious disease spread across the border and to establish prevention measures to protect patients and the population from infection. The project works alongside the whole Dutch‐German‐Belgium border. In this context especially the protection from infections by antibiotic‐resistant microorganisms (AMR, e.g. MRSA, ESBL) stands in the focus, because in Germany and Belgium they are up to 20 times more frequent than in the Netherlands. On this basis 3 activity lines have been set up: Regional networks, research workpackages and communication and training.
The euregional network building has the task to equalize quality of healthcare on both sides of the border, prevention of healthcare‐associated infections and therefore patient safety need to be addressed in structured way by the synergic efforts of the actors of the healthcare systems on both sides of the border. The major is therefore the creation of a crossborder network of the healthcare services alongside the whole Dutch‐German border euregions Maas‐Rijn, Maas‐Rijn‐Noord, Rijn‐Waal, Gronau‐Enschede, Ems‐Dollart, in order to protect patients seeking healthcare from infections. The medical supply will be changed for the better by enhancing patient safety, strengthening quality of healthcare and the medium‐term strategy guarantees an important advantage of location for the Dutch‐German border‐region facilitating at the same time European integration.

Hospital of University of Munich

Hospital of University of Munich is a multi- and interdisciplinary Medical Center with 44 different clinics institutes and departments. With 2300 beds this general hospital is the major health care facility in Germany. The Biophotonics Research and Development Area is focused in Laser Forschungslabor as a unit of LIFE Center. Relevant Clinical research and development is performed in cooperation with different medical departments as end-users and companies. The overall goal is to improve optical procedures for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes especially under endoscopic aspects in different clinical facilities. Basic researches, development of light application devices as well as preclinical and clinical studies are performed under reproducible experimental conditions using tissue models from in vitro models to in vivo situations. Industrial and research partners benefit from the expertise for application oriented product development and from the clinical connection. Partners from the University get the advantage of professional support for solving their clinical problem associated with light induced diagnostics and therapy.

Round Robin Experiment

Raman spectroscopy has already proved its effectiveness in many cases for medical diagnostics such as for cancer, cardiovascular diseases and infections. However, there are no standards in the different working groups, e.g. for sample preparation, implementation of the Raman experiments, spectra pre-treatment, data evaluation, etc.In a round robin experiment, the required groundwork will take place in order to define standardised Raman measurement methods, which will be fundamental for establishing Raman spectroscopy for clinical diagnostic procedures.

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