Intensive care patients who are on breathing support could be helped by a new tool to enable doctors to see inside their lungs in order to check for and monitor infections, inflammation and scarring. A multidisciplinary team at the University of Edinburgh Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Inflammation Research (CIR) will spend the next five years working to design, create and test a ‘point-of-care’ optical technology that has the potential to revolutionize pulmonary medicine and the care of acutely sick patients, thanks to a 11.5M GBP (about $17.5M USD) grant, according to a press release from the University of Edinburgh.

The team will use advanced fiber optic technology, new chemistries, microelectronics and computer intelligence to develop a microscopic probe that can be passed into patients’ blood vessels and lungs that aims to change the way disease is diagnosed, assessed, and monitored by providing real-time multiplexed in situ molecular pathology.

Along with measuring things such as oxygen, lactate and glucose in the patient’s blood and lungs, the device will detect bacteria, viruses, inflammation, and other harmful processes that could damage the lung.

The translational program will begin in October 2013 with the IRC Optical ‘Hub’ comprised of senior scientists from engineering, chemistry, physics, informatics and biology co-located in the CIR to work alongside clinician scientists.