Smiths Medical, part of the Smiths Group (London), has opened the Smiths Medical High Altitude Laboratory at Namche Bazaar, Nepal. The lab, located at an altitude of 11,154 feet, is one of four main laboratories for Caudwell Xtreme Everest, described as the largest human biology study ever performed at high altitude.

More than 200 volunteers will be studied by about 60 doctors and scientists as they climb progressively higher to Everest base camp at 17,225 feet. More detailed research will be performed on a group of experienced mountaineer scientists who aim to climb to the summit of Everest at 29,035 feet to take the first measurement of arterial blood oxygen on the mountain’s summit.

The laboratory, which opened last week, will operate until the end of May. It will be equipped with advanced medical testing equipment, including heart and lung function monitors and cardio pulmonary exercise testing equipment.

Caudwell Xtreme Everest is being conducted by doctors and scientists at the Center for Altitude, Space and Extreme Environment Medicine of the University College London (UCL) and is supported by John Caudwell, the entrepreneur/founder of The Caudwell Charity who is also a volunteer on the trek to Everest base camp. The laboratory also is the base for the Smiths Medical Young Everest Study (SMYES), which will investigate how nine British children cope with the low oxygen levels in the foothills of the world’s highest mountain. SMYES is being conducted by doctors and scientists from Great Ormond Street Hospital and UCL’s Institute of Child Health.

It is supported by Smiths Medical, which is a leader in respiratory care.

The doctors and scientists involved in Caudwell Xtreme Everest hope to make links between the human body at its limits during critical illness and the changes that occur to individuals at high altitude. In common with intensive-care patients, high-altitude mountaineers have a low level of oxygen in their blood.

The doctors and scientists involved in SMYES say they hope to improve the chances of survival for very sick children by investigating how healthy children’s bodies cope and adapt at altitude. The project also aims to improve the quality of life of those with chronic/long term lung diseases and to develop new methods of detecting and treating children with disturbed sleep patterns.

The Smiths Medical High Altitude Laboratory will be run by Professor Monty Mythen, the Smiths Medical Chair of Anesthesia and Critical Care at UCL.

“What we learn from these people as they push themselves to the limit of human performance, will help us to understand what is happening to patients fighting for their lives on intensive care units,” said Mythen. “At sea level, you can’t tell who will cope and who won’t. On Everest, if we can understand more about what makes someone a rapid adapter, we may be able to find the switches and adapters to help the others cope.”

Smiths Medical, which donated a variety of medical equipment to the expedition, pioneered development of single-use devices to help people breathe. It reports having contributed around 4 million toward medical research at UCL over the last decade.

Cepheid releases Smart HBV assay

Cepheid (Sunnyvale, California), a broad-based molecular diagnostics company, reported the European release of the Smart HBV (Hepatitis B Virus) Assay for clinical diagnostic use on the SmartCycler System.

The SmartCycler System is a major real-time polymerase chain reaction testing platform for hospitals, university labs and government agencies. The HBV assay was released as a CE IVD mark product under the European Directive on In Vitro Diagnostic Medical Devices, the most rigorous EU requirement, and is intended for the rapid identification of HBV viral load.

According to the World Health Organization (Geneva), of the 2 billion people infected with the HBV virus, more than 350 million will have chronic, lifelong infections, all at high risk of death from cirrhosis or scarring of the liver and liver cancer.

“The Smart HBV test developed and produced at our Cepheid AB facility in Stockholm extends and complements our existing line of products for monitoring of viral load in the management of transplant patients,” said John Bishop, CEO of Cepheid. “In addition, we believe the test will be an accurate indicator of responses to antiviral therapy in patients being treated for chronic hepatitis B, and its genotype independence ensures that it can be used in all parts of the world in which HBV is endemic”

Bishop said Cepheid plans to continue to expand its test menu on the SmartCycler system and to adapt those tests to the company’s integrated GeneXpert system.”

1st patients Synergy-treated in Tokyo

After becoming Japan’s first medical center to acquire Elekta’s (Stockholm, Sweden) Synergy treatment system for intensity modulated and image guided radiation therapy (IMRT and IGRT), the University of Tokyo Hospital recently treated its first patients with the system. The hospital said it is the first in Japan to use 3-D X-ray volume IGRT to irradiate cancer tumors with the system’s greater precision.

Elekta Synergy is a digital linear accelerator equipped with imaging equipment that enables doctors to acquire images of the patient while the patient is in the treatment position. Clinicians can then use the imaging data to fine-tune the patient’s position immediately prior to treatment.

Earlier this year, radiation oncologists at the hospital harnessed the imaging capabilities (X-ray volume imaging, or XVI) of Elekta Synergy and then used the system to treat a patient with a lung tumor.

“It was surprising to localize the tumor so efficiently and easily with the XVI functionality,” said Keiichi Nakagawa, MD, associate professor in the department of radiology at the hospital. “A few days later, we used Elekta Synergy and XVI to image a neck sarcoma. Our therapists were very pleased to confirm by way of XVI that they had achieved a registration accuracy of less than 0.1 mm in all directions.”

With the XVI technology, University of Tokyo Hospital will be using Synergy for procedures demanding precise localization before irradiation, such as those in the lung, head and neck, Nakagawa said.