Scotland

Oil exploration techniques could aid cancer research

Oil research Image copyright Heriot-Watt University
Image caption Researchers claim their work in understanding how oil flows could provide important clues for work in delivering vital drugs to combat tumours

A Scottish university has been awarded a prestigious prize for research linking oil exploration engineering with studies into the formation of tumours.

Scientists at Heriot-Watt University have been investigating how oil flows through the tiny pore spaces in otherwise solid rock.

They claimed the principle can be applied to the movement of blood.

They said this could be important in the treatment of cancer.

The work has won a Queen's Anniversary Prize from the Royal Anniversary Trust which recognises innovative work across different disciplines.

Blood vessels

It was carried out by Heriot-Watt's Institute of Petroleum Engineering which has been focusing on experiments and computer simulation of fluid flow in porous media, such as rock and subsea surfaces.

Its director, Prof Dorrik Stow, said: "The Institute has developed mathematical models which demonstrate how oil, water and gas are transported through narrow pathways that form inside porous media.

"But it became apparent that similar modelling techniques could apply to work in the field of blood vessel development."

He said this was important because the of the way blood vessels develop around a tumour, making them less effective in delivering treatments to combat the disease.

The institute's work on oil flow could help scientists understand how anti-cancer treatments could more effectively target tumours.

Practical benefits

He said: "Areas of mathematical biology, the dynamic modelling of blood capillaries and the subsequent simulation of intravenous chemotherapy and anti-angiogenic treatments (treatments which inhibit blood vessel formation), are initial areas where the institute's techniques have created a new strand of research, as all of these processes depend crucially upon the blood flow within the vascular network."

The Queen's Anniversary Prize for higher and further education was established in 1990, and is awarded to research which the judges believe demonstrate practical benefit to people in the UK and beyond.

Jo Johnson, UK Minister for Universities and Science, said: "The UK is a world leader in science and research and The Queen's Anniversary Prizes celebrate the achievements of our universities and colleges.

"The outstanding work recognised with these awards brings benefits to the everyday lives of millions of people in the UK and beyond."

Among the other winners at the ceremony held on Thursday at St. James' Palace in London were the University of Edinburgh for work improving the lives of patients with coronary heart disease worldwide and Edinburgh Napier University's research into innovations in UK timber construction which can reduce the carbon footprint.

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