The ICI-THROUGH will bring several improvements over the state-of-the-art:
It will create the first non-invasive, practical and affordable method to estimate human brown adipose tissue activity that can be used in clinical and community settings.
It will combine for the first time positron emission tomography/computed tomography imaging with heat and mass transfer models to quantify the heat produced by brown adipose tissue and thus, its energy expenditure.
It will provide the first method to quantify the error between heat flux transducer manufacturer-supplied calibration constants and those derived experimentally as well as the error due to the placement of the heat flux transducer on the surface of the skin.
This intersectoral collaboration will generate tangible outcomes that will benefit all the relevant stakeholders (business, academia, public). The benefits involved fall into the following 3 categories:
Increase the economic output of European Union and create jobs by creating new niche markets and product lines.
Increase the competitiveness of the European Union area by increasing its innovation capital at the research and business level, alike.
Increase the confidence of the public to the innovative potential of the European Union created when industry and academia join forces. We will achieve this by raising awareness of the results of the ICI-THROUGH project in the public, industrial, and academic communities.
In addition to benefits for the participants, the ICI-THROUGH exchange programme will provide benefits to the exchanged researchers including personal development, career progress, exposure to a different organisational culture, opportunity to change direction and time for contemplation and re-evaluation of existing skills and abilities. Another important benefit that will enhance our research- and innovation-related human resources is that exchanged researchers will bring skills into the organisation that otherwise would not have been available. Not only will our exchange plan allow the learning of new skills, but it will also expose the exchanged researchers to the idea that there are skills in which they are deficient. In this sense, the current approach is better than training because a researcher about to embark on some training is already aware that they need to develop a specific skill set, whereas our approach will provide the opportunity to be exposed to the way other organisations operate.
The intersectoral exchanges will be a wonderful opportunity for the staff at University of Thessaly and Universidade do Porto because – across the industrialized nations – the academic sector has lagged behind the industry in instituting programmes related to human resources, skills and career perspectives. In this light, the intersectoral and multidisciplinary ICI-THROUGH project is an excellent opportunity for them to provide new skills and career perspectives for their staff. On the other hand, staff at IMEDICA and Center for Technology Research and Innovation are more familiar with programmes related to human resources, skills and career perspectives. Nevertheless, they need to be exposed to state of the art research and expertise in order to gain/maintain their advantage over colleagues working in other companies. This is always a challenge for staff working in small-medium enterprisies due to the companies’ relative small size and limited resources. Consequently, the intersectoral and multidisciplinary ICI-THROUGH project will be a significant boost in the research- and innovation-related human resources and skills of IMEDICA and Center for Technology Research and Innovation that, according to research evidence, can lead to real business advantage. Indeed, the training of each researcher will contribute to each participant’s research capacity in the field of bioenergetics, with further potential innovations arising in the future.
Non-invasive assessment of brown adipose tissue activity is crucial in the fight against metabolic pandemics such as obesity and in various industries (e.g., foods, pharmaceuticals). The practical and accurate assessment of brown adipose tissue activity will aid the European research community by providing access to more brown adipose tissue activity data from healthy individuals (which currently remain very limited due to the invasiveness of the positron emission tomography/computed tomography technique) and thus, fostering further research and innovations. Consequently, the results of the research will possibly have spill over effects in various different sectors and industries and will lead to new findings and development of more innovative products. This will be an enormous investment for the future of the European economy in terms of competiveness and job creation. The only available technique to measure human brown adipose tissue activity – the positron emission tomography/computed tomography imaging of the glucosetracer 18 F-fluorodeoxyglucose – involves very expensive, time consuming and tedious procedures, requiring very sophisticated equipment, highly trained staff and extensive facilities. More importantly, this method is extremely invasive and harmful for the users’ health due to high radiation exposure. As such, it is performed almost exclusively for cancerous tumour detection. At present, non-invasive techniques to estimate human brown adipose tissue activity do not exist. In this light, the development of the ICI THROUGH prototype will be a milestone in brown adipose tissue and obesity-related research.
Another contribution of ICI-THROUGH to the improvement of the research and innovation
which is essential within Europe and worldwide pertains to lowering the development costs of new non-invasive brown adipose tissue activity measurement systems and other similar medical devices. Indeed, the project will bring several improvements over the state-of-the-art.
Currently, designing a non-invasive device to measure brown adipose tissue activity implies
extensive research as well as expensive developments of special-purpose hardware and software. However, many support components (e.g., thermal models, image processing algorithms) will be common for all solutions. However, many support components (e.g., thermal models, image processing algorithms) will be common for all solutions. Thus, ICI-THROUGH has the potential to become a standardized platform for non-invasive brown adipose tissue activity measurement systems and other similar medical devices, providing a common infrastructure which includes sensing, interfaces, data retrieval, data analysis algorithms, etc. This will eliminate all costs related to development of redundant subsystems. It is therefore expected that ICI-THROUGH will reduce development costs and times for new non-invasive brown adipose activity measurement systems. This has the side effects of optimizing society’s investment in medical devices and lowering the entry barrier for personalized medical devices, so as to include institutions (particularly small-medium enterprisiess) with limited budgets that cannot afford expensive software development.
“This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation
programme under grant agreement No 645710”