April 2022

World Health Day – NML’s measurement work for health

On 7 April we celebrate World Health Day. This day is celebrated annually, and each year the World Health Organisation draws attention to a specific health topic. This year the theme is “Our planet, our health”.

Over the past few years, one of humanity’s growing concerns has been how global warming is affecting human health, increasing cases of cancer, asthma, heart disease and infectious diseases. Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year due to malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.

At the National Measurement Laboratory (NML) at LGC, we strive to address measurement challenges that affect society, including health. In our role as the UK’s designated for chemical and bio-measurement, we provide access to the highest quality measurements in the UK to support government and industry needs, which helps ensure trust in medicine and diagnostics. Here are a few examples of how we are supporting better health.

Measurement standards in infectious diseases

We supported the standardisation of measurements and the validation of novel technologies to fight pathogenic diseases. Our work developing high accuracy reference methods for quantifying nucleic acids has played a significant role in strengthening the quality of routine SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) diagnostic tests and ensuring standardised measurements across the globe. These improved measurements can provide a global foundation for rapidly implementing diagnostic standards that can be tailored to a wide area of applications, like future pandemics, cancer testing and antibiotic resistance.

 More accurate In-Vitro diagnostics

Laboratory testing is at the heart of health care. An estimated 70% of medical decisions depend on in-vitro diagnostics (IVDs). Improved metrological traceability of IVDs enhances the validity of diagnosis, supports further treatment, and lowers financial burdens by avoiding nonessential testing. The NML is one of the partners of the European Metrology Network for Traceability in Laboratory Medicine (EMN-TLM), a network that will allow the metrological community to respond more efficiently to the stakeholder needs including reference laboratories, European Quality Assurance and in vitro diagnostic industry.

Best practice for genetic sequencing to support diagnostics

New genetic tools have revolutionised the analysis of genetic information, but they create complex measurement challenges as each laboratory may use a different approach. The standards we are developing guide best practice, covering the whole process from sample collection and processing, isolation and sequencing of nucleic acids, to the analysis of the data and the reporting by the clinician. The standards will be useful to allow laboratories to compare and provide more accurate results of genetic diagnostic tests.

Supporting innovation for safer water

The pollution of water supplies is a global risk that can adversely affect human health. We worked with Puraffinity, a company that specialises in designing and manufacturing novel advanced materials for environmental benefit, to accurately characterise their materials for commercial water purification applications. The work done from our partnership will help them improve product performance and generate data to support certification, a critical step to accelerating product validation and commercialisation. The product will then help detect contaminants that have been associated with a host of health effects in drinking water.

 We develop standards for improved bio-analytical measurement and traceability, as well as increasing innovation in healthcare within the UK and across Europe. Our work provides stronger measurements that will ultimately lead to better health outcomes.

 To find out more about our impact on health and other areas, please read our annual review.