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Monday 20 March 2023 Dublin: 11°C
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# Health
University of Limerick scientists invent new metal to 'significantly reduce patient trauma'
Scientists in Limerick have invented a new metal that will make medical devices inside the body more visible under x-ray, resulting in “significantly” reducing patient trauma and hospitalisation time.

SCIENTISTS AND ENGINEERS at the University of Limerick have invented a new metal that will make medical devices inside the body more visible under x-ray – resulting in “significantly” reducing patient trauma and hospitalisation time.

The researchers at the Materials and Surface Science Institute (MSSI) at the University of Limerick invented the revolutionary metal alloy from which medical devices can be constructed to make them fully visible under x-ray, thereby significantly positively affecting patient outcomes and recovery times.

Many medical devices, such as stents and valves, which are placed in the body through minimally invasive surgical procedures significantly reduce patient trauma and hospitalisation time. These procedures are often carried out with the help of medical imaging, such as X-ray fluoroscopy, to ensure that the surgeon has clear visibility of where the device is placed. However, the current materials used for making these devices do not show up well under X-ray – a problem that becomes more acute as the size of the medical device becomes smaller. X-ray visible markers can be used in an attempt to counteract this problem, but that has been described as a “less than optimal solution” by experts.

“An ideal solution is a device that is fully visible under the X-ray but the alloy would have to be developed based on the currently approved alloys for medical devices,” said Dr Syed Tofail, Lead Scientist of the UL research team. “Up to now many companies have used gold or platinum to modify existing alloys, which improve x-ray visibility but are very expensive. We have identified a number of alloying elements that will make these devices as visible as those where platinum has been added to enhance the visibility, but at a significantly reduced cost”.

The global market for minimally invasive surgical devices is estimated to reach the level of €17 to €26 billion in 2015/2016. “Tests on a prototype wire of the newly developed alloy have shown its potential for use in a number of COOK products,” said Shay Lavelle, the Lead Investigator from COOK Medical. “The fact that the raw materials are more viable than the platinum added solutions also means that the commercialisation potential of this newly developed alloy is very high,” he added.

Professor Noel O’Dowd, MSSI Director, said the success of this research demonstrated a high return on investment made by the Irish government both on commercialisation of research and the research infrastructure.

The research was conducted through an Innovation Partnership between the University of Limerick and the international medical devices company COOK Medical, which was supported through the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Partnership Programme.

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