Home Health & Wellness NRC Welcomes Biomedical Engineering Professor Rui Loureiro as First Research Director

NRC Welcomes Biomedical Engineering Professor Rui Loureiro as First Research Director

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Plans for rehabilitation research at the NRC are set to take another leap forward following the appointment of its research director.

Professor Rui Loureiro, head of the department of orthopaedics and musculoskeletal science at University College London, has been selected to be the research director and will set the research agenda for the NHS-led centre.

Through his extensive research career, professor Loureiro has pioneered the use of technology in healthcare, particularly through robotics and virtual reality within rehabilitation for stroke patients and movement disorders, with amputees, for pain management, and also for training surgeons and planning of complex surgical procedures.

In addition, he has grown the Aspire Centre for Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology (Aspire CREATe) at UCL from three academics to a multidisciplinary team of 56 people, served in several committees, and contributed to the development of new cross-faculty initiatives such as the establishment of the WEISS centre, the UCL Institute of Healthcare Engineering, and the UCL Robotics Institute.

Professor Loureiro explained that his research experience, combined with his passion for bringing research into a clinical setting to benefit patients at the point of care, meant that the NRC research director role was an obvious fit.

He said: “Being part of the NRC is the right thing to do. For me, this is the opportunity to join all the dots and bring all the pieces of the rehabilitation research puzzle together to change the lives of our future patients.

“The UK has so much promise in this area – we have a huge talent pool in science and healthcare across the nation, but we need to get better at bringing them together, and the NRC will enable us to do that at a national level.

“It’s exciting to be part of breaking the boundaries by having engineers and researchers work alongside clinicians, all for the good of the patient.”

Throughout his experience, professor Loureiro has seen firsthand how powerful having researchers and engineers embedded in a clinical space can be.

Examples of this have included developing tools with clinical colleagues to deliver focused vibrations to a joint or muscle in patients with an incomplete spinal cord injury to alleviate the symptoms of spasticity and the associated pain. This approach enables the patient to participate more fully in the work with their occupational therapist (OT) as their joints are more relaxed, all as a result of OTs sharing their rehab challenges and working with Professor L’s research team.

Another example was a patient with complex regional pain syndrome who had previously benefitted from rehabilitation therapy utilising virtual reality to alleviate pain and who needed a bionic hand but would need to wait over three years, and it would cost the NHS £50,000. By working with the patient, clinicians, engineers, and researchers were able to 3D print a bionic hand, fit it with electronics, and connect it to virtual reality, all within three weeks and for less than £4,000, enabling the patient to self-manage their condition and become pain-free.

Professor Loureiro explained that this interdisciplinary team approach to rehabilitation solutions is how he hopes research will take place at the NRC.

He said: “In rehabilitation, we need to move away from the traditional clinical research, which takes 10, 15, or 20 years to complete before it is implemented and benefits patients. As each rehab patient journey is different, a more holistic approach is needed to fast-track the development and delivery of effective rehabilitation innovations.

“We need to bring everyone together to develop interventions that might not yet exist for our patients and then translate the research to further develop those interventions to benefit even more patients across the country.

“In five to 10 years, I expect this to be the UK model for delivering rehabilitation, and I hope we will see it delivered and deployed across the nation as part of a hub and spokes model.”

Miriam Duffy, NRC Director, said: “We are delighted to welcome professor Loureiro to the NRC team and know that his wealth of experience in rehabilitation will be of great benefit to our patients, researchers, and staff.

“We look forward to seeing how we can best work together to transform rehabilitation research in the UK.”

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