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Breakthrough medical device to improve prediction of pre-term birth

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Pioneered by research into Electrical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS) at the University of Sheffield, the device was brought to market by a UK- based company EveryBaby

A new medical device that improves the prediction of pre-term birth at a fraction of the cost of current methods, will help to reduce the global number of deaths and long-term complications caused by babies born prematurely.

Pioneering research carried out on Electrical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS) at the University of Sheffield has led to the creation of the device, brought to market by EveryBaby, a UK-based company backed by South Korean investment.

Current technologies for assessing the likelihood of pre-term birth, such as transvaginal ultrasound, are expensive and not always available, especially in poorer countries.

EveryBaby uses pioneering patented technology involving a novel method of impedance spectroscopy to pick up on changes to the composition and structure of cervical tissue as a mother nears birth. The device provides a higher degree of accuracy in an affordable, hand-held and portable device, giving huge potential for export to low-income countries.

Dilly O’Anumba, Professor – Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Sheffield, and Consultant, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trusts, said, “More than one in 10 babies are born too early and data has shown that pre-term birth rates are increasing in many parts of the world. My team has spent over four years researching the potential for cervical EIS to improve the prediction of pre-term birth.”

He added, “This pioneering technique will enable healthcare professionals to better prevent and manage pre-term birth. It is not only more accurate than current methods, but is significantly lower in cost, making it more accessible, especially in low-income communities where pre-term birth rates are particularly high. EveryBaby’s eventual commercialisation of this technology could help to save countless lives both in the UK and across the globe.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 15 million babies are born pre-term every year, with complications arising from premature births being the leading cause of death in infants under five years of age.

Long-term complications can be severe, and many survivors face a lifetime of disability, including learning disabilities as well as visual and hearing impairments.

According to the WHO global action report Born Too Soon, more than 90 per cent of extremely pre-term babies (less than 28 weeks) born in low-income countries die within the first few days of life; yet less than 10 per cent of extremely pre-mature babies die in high-income countries.

A study of 449 pregnant women, led by Professor O’Anumba and published in Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, demonstrated that EIS assessment predicts spontaneous pre-term birth.

Dabriel Choi, CEO, EveryBaby, said, “We are delighted to be working with the University of Sheffield to commercialise this exciting technology and bring a much-needed innovation to the healthcare market. Sheffield is a leader in health research and we’re proud to play a part in transforming research in the lab into a tangible product to improve patient outcomes.”

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