£1m funding boost for ultrasonic needle research

A University of Glasgow-led project which is developing a new form of surgical needle is one of 15 engineering projects to share in £12.2m of new funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Margaret Lucas, Professor of Ultrasonics at the University’s School of Engineering, and her partner researchers at the Universities of Dundee and Edinburgh have received £982,000 to support three years of work to develop a needle which vibrates at ultrasonic frequencies.

Margaret Lucas cutting tool eggThe technology would allow doctors to penetrate bone with needles with much less force than is currently required, improving the effectiveness of biopsies and allowing a more effective delivery of drugs to parts of the body obscured by bone. Ultrasonic needles could also make it easier for doctors to penetrate areas of hard tissue without affecting the surrounding soft tissue.

Previous research carried out by Professor Lucas has led to the development of ultrasonic cutting tools precise enough to remove sections from the shell of an egg without breaking the membrane underneath.

Professor Lucas said: “We’ve been working for several years to explore the applications of ultrasonic vibrations to allow surgeons to cut through bone more quickly and easily, and we’re excited about the potential of applying similar technology to needles.

“We’re grateful to EPSRC for their support and we’re looking forward to developing this technology further. Ultrasonic needles could have tremendous benefits for medicine across a wide range of fields, including oncology, neurosurgery, orthopaedics, bone biopsy, regional anaesthesia and rheumatology.”

Professor David Delpy, CEO of EPSRC said: “The research we are funding is aimed at developing a range of innovative technologies which can improve the diagnosis and treatment of serious illnesses including cancer, improve patient outcomes, and help severely disabled people. EPSRC funds projects which are both world leading research, and can make a real difference to people’s lives.” 

Richard Prager, from the University of Cambridge, who chaired the EPSRC panel assessing the research proposals, said:  “Technology for rehabilitation, acute care and imaging has huge potential to transform lives and improve medicine.  It is great that such an exciting set of ambitious projects has been funded.

“The referees and review panel were greatly impressed by the large number and outstanding quality of proposals received”. 

The projects funded will develop innovative technology which aims to improve the diagnosis and treatment of serious illnesses including cancer, improve patient outcomes, and help severely disabled people. 

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For more information contact Ross Barker in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 8593 or email ross.barker@glasgow.ac.uk


Notes to Editors


The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK. www.epsrc.ac.uk


First published: 7 March 2013

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