THOUSANDS of children around the world could benefit from life-changing surgery – if a Scottish university gains funding to roll-out new technology.

More than 170,000 babies are born with a cleft deformity in developing countries every year.

But despite being the most prevalent birth defect in many of these, children often go untreated for want of affordable medical care.

Specialist charity Smile Train has aided more than one million youngsters since its foundation in 1999.

Now Glasgow University aims to help the organisation "revolutionise" the standard of surgery for youngsters with cleft lip and palate problems through its new 3D mapping system.

The technology uses an algorithm to measure post-operation facial symmetry to within one thousandth of a millimetre for greater assessment of surgeons' work. It flags up cases where the medic needs more training to improve standards.

Dr Liberty Vittert and Professor Adrian Bowman now aim to secure funding to roll the project out across the Smile Train network, which covers more than 70 countries and 1100 partner hospitals.

The appeal to corporate donors follows a trial in India's Smyan Hospital. Vittert, who recently returned from the centre, said: "Children in developing countries deserve the same high standard of treatment that children receive in developed countries. Our 3D facial mapping will level the playing field by improving the standard of facial surgery care for these children.

“Cleft-lip and palate deformities can cause terrible suffering in developing countries, where children become malnourished as breastfeeding is impossible and they have difficulties speaking, hearing and breathing.

"In some cultures without proper treatment, children are often abandoned or are ostracised by their communities.

"This system gives surgeons the tool to continually assess their own work, leading to higher standards of care.”

Erin Stieber, Smile Train’s vice president of strategy and evaluation, said the project could "completely eliminate" poor treatment. She commented: “Given Smile Train’s ethos of partnering with local hospitals and doctors in developing countries and providing additional training and support for them to perform the surgeries, constant assessment of those surgeons’ performance is essential.

“The same medical board standards do not necessarily apply in developing countries as they do in developed countries.

"The poor deserve the same level of care as the privileged. This project will do that for these children and adults.”