Repurposing heritage science technology for neonatal intensive care

Technology designed for old master paintings has been used for rapid detection of biofilms in neonatal feed tubes.

Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is a non-invasive 3D imaging method that was initially designed for biomedical applications, such as eye examinations. Heritage scientists, led by the Imaging & Sensing for Archaeology, Art History & Conservation (ISAAC) Research Centre at Nottingham Trent University (NTU), then developed this technology further, creating Ultra-high Resolution Optical Coherence Tomography (UHR-OCT). This was designed for non-invasive in situ imaging of thin transparent or semi-transparent layers on heritage objects, such as thin varnish layers on old master paintings. This imaging assists with making conservation decisions.

This technology was then repurposed by microbiology researchers at NTU, who successfully adapted it for the rapid in situ imaging of harmful bacterial biofilms in neonatal feed tubes. This not only shows promise for improving the safety of vulnerable infants in intensive care, but also demonstrates that heritage science technology can have broader beneficial applications.

Read more about UHR-OCT in heritage science.

Read more about UHR-OCT in neonatal intensive care.

This impact case study has been produced with support from the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

Image: Investigating the properties of new varnishes applied after conservation using optical coherence tomography at the National Gallery, London. Credit: Nottingham Trent University, courtesy of National Gallery, London.