Hair-Sized Probe Could Help Discover Lung Diseases

Placed deep in the lung, this microscopic probe may help identify diseases more accurately.
Fabienne Lang

A hair-sized probe that can hold up to 19 sensors in the space of 0.2mm in diameter, has been invented by a team of researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh, Bath and Herriot-Watt.

By inserting the minute optical fibre probe deep into the lung, it is able to measure key indicators of damaged tissue.


This scientific development will improve the way patients are assessed and treated, as it can pick up incredibly small changes in tissue.

It will be of particular help for patients in intensive care and strapped to ventilators. 

Lung diseases still a huge global issue 

To this day, it is still unbelievably hard to know how disease develops in patients suffering from pneumonia or lung injury. Lung diseases are still the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. 

With this new invention, the hope is to catch the diseases earlier on, in order to treat them more accurately. 

So how does this microscopic new probe function? 

Hair-Sized Probe Could Help Discover Lung Diseases
Source: Michael Tanner, Herriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh

Each of its 19 sensors measure different indicators in tissues; for example, acidity and oxygen levels - all of which provide integral information on our body's reaction to diseases.

This probe offers a fast and reliable measurements, and the possibility of adding extra sensors in the future. 

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Probe could be used for other regions of the body

The researchers have stated that this versatile technology could also be used in different parts of the body - specifically for identifying and understanding inflammatory and bacterial diseases. 

Dr. Michael Tanner, Proteus Research Fellow at Herriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh, said: "This research is a great example of collaboration across disciplines to tackle healthcare challenges. These new methods, if taken to clinic, will lead to novel insights in disease biology. Our aim now is to expand the number of unique sensors on this miniaturised platform to provide even more information."

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