Biomechanics breakthrough will help save life and limbs

“We are excited to be a part of this project which will substantially change the way we treat a common and life threatening problem affecting diabetes patients."

Professor Nachi Chockalingam

Academics at Staffordshire University have welcomed new funding which could signal a breakthrough in preventative foot care available to diabetes patients.

Almost £1m has been awarded to a consortium led by Chester based Cadscan Limited to develop a new system of making bespoke insoles to prevent foot ulcers in diabetic patients and ultimately save lives.

The Clinical Biomechanics team at Staffordshire University has been working with Cadscan and other partners to develop a system which seeks to reduce the load or pressure under the feet of people with diabetes.

On average, 300 new foot ulcers are diagnosed every day in the UK and 120 people undergo an amputation each week. Although ulcers are preventable, prognosis for diabetes patients suffering with foot ulcers is poor. Once developed, the new bespoke insoles could substantially reduce the £1 billion annual bill for amputations and the significant costs of treating each foot ulcer.

Professor Nachi Chockalingam, who leads the team at Staffordshire, said “We are excited to be a part of this project which will substantially change the way we treat a common and life threatening problem affecting diabetes patients.

“We will be using our know-how to automatically create a clinically effective patient specific insole that meets the needs and preferences of an individual and the clinician who provides support to these patients.”

As a first phase of the project, funded through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), Staffordshire’s Biomechanics team worked with Cadscan and partners to test a system which uses a 3D foot scanner, 3D insole printer and software to automatically design and manufacture bespoke insoles. Based on these results a second Phase of activity has been commissioned to develop the system commercially.

Dr Alastair Buchanan of Cadscan Limted said “We are bringing our expertise in scanning technology to the world of diabetes and commissioned Staffordshire because of its expertise and background in solving problems related to the diabetic foot.”

Phase 2 of the project aims to enhance the properties of the insoles by optimising the design and performance and will involve patient testing of the new insoles.

Other partners in the project include University of Plymouth; Recreus Industries;  Gyrobot and JB Medical. The project is commissioned and funded by the SBRI Healthcare programme. SBRI Healthcare is an NHS England initiative, championed by the Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs). 

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