Case Study

Shining light on cartilage

Date: April 7, 2019

A joint Arthritis Research UK and IKC proof of concept award has enabled a diagnostic tool for early stage cartilage disease to move closer to commercialisation.

The tool is based on a technology called Raman spectroscopy, which uses lasers to identify the composition of materials. Combined with an optical probe, the technique can be used during keyhole surgery to provide an objective assessment of the state of cartilage within a joint and so enable clinicians to decide what intervention will be needed.

Dr Jayesh Dudhia of the Royal Veterinary College and Professor Paul McMillan of UCL have identified specific features of scattered light that reveals early stage cartilage disease – when it cannot be picked up by MRI or X-ray imaging. However, they needed to build sufficient data across other areas of the spectrum so the tool could be validated.

Dr Dudhia said: “With the additional data, we’re now able to reliably assess the changes that occur with age, as the composition of cartilage in a 20-year-old can be markedly different to that of a 50-year-old. By having this wider range of data, we can take natural changes into account, to ensure the tool only responds when disease is present.”

The researchers hope to team up with an optics company to improve the sensitivity and practicality of the tool and ensure it meets the needs of clinicians. They have also been awarded a grant by UCL Enterprise to develop its commercial potential.

The aim is to build a probe that will beam a laser onto the cartilage and give the surgeon a ‘traffic light’ tool to guide the boundaries between diseased and healthy or borderline cartilage.

“We’re now adding to our data to build the algorithm that will enable this simple output, so the machine does all the hard work and the surgeon can focus on the operation,” said Dr Dudhia. “At present, some prostheses fail because surgeons can’t see the extent of the underlying problem – this is where we believe our tool can help. But it can also be applied to cartilage regenerative medicine and engineering fields.”


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