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An X-ray imaging machine used to stargaze could be developed in order to identify early cancers, the Government has announced.
Engineers from the UK company Adaptix have been the first of four projects to receive a share of a £4m innovation fund made available by the UK Space Agency last year to celebrate the NHS turning 70.
The Adaptix 3D X-ray machine, which has been designed for NHS usage, will use stargazing technology to create three-dimensional scans that generate much clearer images. This differs from 2D X-ray machines, which produce images that are sometimes difficult to interpret, the Government said.
The devices will be ‘miniaturised, portable and connected through satellites’ to allow GPs to scan patients in GP practices, avoiding the need to send them to hospital.
The Government is confident that the new technology will help deliver on the NHS long-term plan clinical priority for the NHS to diagnose cancers earlier.
The plan outlines that by 2028, the NHS will diagnose 75% of cancers at stage 1 or 2. In real terms, this means that an additional 55,000 people a year will survive for at least five years after diagnosis.
Commenting on this new X-ray machine, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Technology has enormous potential to save lives. This is a brilliant example of how innovators can work with the NHS to help save lives with more early diagnosis of cancer.
‘It’s all part of our NHS long-term plan, building on the work of NHSX, our new organisation built to drive new technology through the NHS.’
He added that the NHS will welcome technologies like this ‘to build a preventative, personalised and world-leading health and care service’.
In June 2018, the UK Space Agency, NHS England and the European Space Agency asked innovators to convert technology originally designed for space into medical applications that would help NHS offer better treatment and care.
NHS England’s national clinical director for innovation Professor Tony Young said: ‘Last year, as we celebrated the NHS’s 70th birthday, we challenged industry to bring technology designed for outer space into the NHS.
‘Using stargazing technology to spot cancer is exactly the type of advanced innovation that could improve care for patients by speeding up diagnosis and helping to deliver our long-term plan which will save half a million lives.’
Adaptix Limited chief executive Mark Evans said his vision is ‘to create a business that will transform radiology’.
The Royal College of Radiologists president Dr Nicola Strickland said: ‘Government investment in developing imaging technologies is extremely welcome – medical imaging is an exciting, constantly evolving field that has a fundamental impact on how we detect and treat disease.’