New thermal imaging technology could help advance diabetic care

9th November 2023
Paige West

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has developed a state-of-the-art thermal imaging technology aimed at enhancing the early detection and treatment of diabetic foot ulcers.

This project, receiving funding and support from the Government Office for Technology Transfer (GOTT), signifies a transformative development in medical diagnostics.

The pressing challenge

Individuals with diabetes are at a heightened risk of foot ulcers, precursors to serious complications that can lead to amputations. Traditional temperature measurement techniques, often limited to the sole of the foot, are slow and provide limited data, hence only addressing 40% of where ulcers typically occur.

Innovative solution from NPL

The UK’s national metrology institute, NPL, has answered this challenge by creating a thermal imaging technology that maps the entire surface temperature of a patient’s foot quickly and accurately. This technology has the potential to prevent the oversight of thousands of potential ulcers by clinicians each year and could be utilised in other medical scenarios where temperature monitoring is crucial.

Beneficiaries of the technology

  • Patients: it is projected that this technology could prevent an estimated 170 amputations weekly in England, significantly enhancing patient outcomes and reducing mortality rates
  • Clinicians: the new system offers a more efficient and extensive method for identifying patients at risk, thereby improving clinical outcomes
  • NHS: early ulcer detection could save the NHS around £1.1 billion annually by reducing the frequency of amputations

Fiscal support and outcomes

The NPL’s foray into thermal imaging was bolstered by KAGF, with an initial grant of £248,502 in 2021 and a subsequent £210,880 in January 2023. These funds have been instrumental in developing Thermology Health, a spinout company focused on commercialising the technology.

Reflecting on the support from GOTT, Christian Saville from Thermology Health remarked: “As a world-leading National Metrology Institute (NMI), NPL is constantly developing new technology. GOTT has helped us realise different ways of making the most impact from our discoveries – in this case via spinout. We most benefitted from the Grant Fund through not just the funding itself, but also access to innovation experts and investor networks.”

The road ahead

Thermology Health is now poised to secure venture capital funding and medical regulatory approval. This will permit the sale and clinical use of the technology, offering a beacon of hope for diabetes treatment and potentially other conditions where temperature is a key indicator.

NPL’s thermal imaging technology represents a quantum leap in diabetic care, supported by the strategic vision and resources of GOTT. This collaborative effort not only promises to significantly reduce the rate of amputations among diabetes patients but also establishes the UK as a pioneer in the integration of innovative technology within healthcare. The journey of Thermology Health now continues towards commercialisation and the wider application of this vital technology in medicine.

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