Maggots given pride of place in Dome

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The Independent Online
IN THE words of Tony Blair, the Millennium Dome was billed as a showcase for the finest and most innovative products, those which would turn Britain into "a world creative powerhouse". Yesterday, the first products to gain "Millennium status" were revealed: maggots.

Alongside the space-age fabrics and futuristic designs, the larvae of the common greenbottle will be displayed at the site in Greenwich, south- east London, as an example of a ground-breaking product that will change the way we live in the 21st century.

Other products unveiled yesterday as the best examples of British design and technology included a waterbed for cows (more comfortable than straw on concrete), an invisibly welded stainless steel bath and and a cup with a one-way valve to stop children spilling their drinks. Medical inventions included a three dimensional view of the human hand on a CD-Rom and an artificial knee for doctors to practice keyhole surgery.

There was a Marks and Spencer shoe which does not need polishing, a recipe for fat-free carrot cake and a feeding tube for newborn pigs.

As leading-edge technology goes, however, the maggot does take some beating. Favoured for decades by fishermen, they are now in growing demand by hospitals for treating patients with infected wounds.

The idea of using maggots to clean wounds - known as "debridement"- was pioneered in Wales. The larvae digest the dead tissue producing enzymes which clean the wound and aid healing. They are especially useful in hard- to-treat wounds such as pressure sores and have been credited with preventing the need for amputation in some patients.

Live, sterile maggots are produced for sale at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Bridgend, Mid-Glamorgan. The service is advertised with the line: "Entrust debridement to a surgical team who are dumb, blind and legless." In addition to taking pride of place in the Dome, the maggots will be able to carry the prestigious Millennium Products trade marque and have a share of almost pounds 4m of government cash to promote the service.

Among products given Millennium Product status yesterday was also the improbably pneumatic Lara Croft, star of the Tomb Raider computer games from the Derby-based Core Design company. Lara burst onto the cyber-scene in December 1996. According to the game notes, she was educated at Cheltenham Ladies' College; however, in exploring tombs, she is happy using an M- 16 or Uzi submachine gun.

The awards - chosen by Peter Mandelson, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Design Council - were made at the Confederation of British Industry conference in Birmingham yesterday by Mr Mandelson.