New Technology in the monitoring of unborn babies

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Pregnancy and unborn baby health

New technology, the size of a mobile phone, which could save the life of an unborn child, has been developed by scientists from The University of Nottingham. The device monitors the baby's heart for signs of potential danger. It is small and easy to use so that mother's-to-be can keep a regular check on their baby's heart beat without having to go into hospital and be attached to a machine. No other technology allows them to do this.

It took 15 years of pioneering work and enterprise, with funding from Action Medical Research and Venture Capital, to develop the fetal heart monitor. Researchers believe the device has the potential to benefit 70,000 at risk babies a year in the UK alone.

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Statistics show that as many as 10 babies a day are stillborn in the UK and 10 per cent of all pregnancies each year are high risk. The monitor lets doctors read signals produced naturally by the unborn baby's heart. They can then intervene if necessary and potentially save their lives.

The fetal monitor is the result of years of collaborative work between engineers and doctors at the University. The original research was carried out by Dr John Crowe and Dr Barrie Hayes-Gill in the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (EEE) and Professor David James and Dr Margaret Ramsay in the School of Human Development. In 2005 the technology was spun out to create Monica Healthcare Ltd. Led by both Dr Hayes-Gill and two ex PhD researchers from EEE, Dr Carl Barratt and Jean Francois Pieri, the company has gone on to develop the monitor even further.

This highly sensitive device, which is able to detect 0.00000001 volts, has now been reduced to the size of a mobile phone. It can compute real time fetal readings and the resulting data can be transmitted by wireless technology to the nearest PC or hand held computer. The device has now passed all EU regulatory safety standards and is currently undergoing clinical trials.

Dr Barrie Hayes-Gill expects the device to go on sale in October this year. "To date we have successfully completed over 33 per cent of the clinical trial. We expect to complete clinical trials in July 2007. This represents a tremendous achievement to turn a research device into a medically approved product in only two years

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