NISKAYUNA, N.Y., June 14, 2010 — Researchers from GE Global Research were awarded a four-year, $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to optimize a nerve labeling agent and imaging system.
Cristina Tan Hehir, GE biochemist and project leader on the Nerve Imaging project, works with an early prototype of the optical imaging system developed at GE’s Global Research Center. The imaging system can view fluorescent imaging agents in the near-infrared. (Photos: Business Wire)
The nerve labeling agent is anticipated to see delicate nerve endings that are prone to damage during certain procedures, such as prostate surgery. It could offer a clearer line of sight to nerves in the operating room, enhance surgical procedures and improve patient outcomes, according to the company.
Captured using a fluorescent imaging system with a colored camera, the nerve glows reddish-orange with GE’s fluorescent labeling agent. The agent exhibits some partitioning of fat tissue, where it glows with a greenish color. The surrounding tissue, such as a muscle, is dark.
The team of scientists has already developed an initial fluorescent imaging agent and a prototype imaging system to light up most nerves in the body with the goal of preventing inadvertent nerve damage during surgery.
The labeling agent is a fluorescent small molecule that localizes to myelin, a major component of motor nerves and clinically important sensory nerves, like the cavernous nerves of the prostate. The agent then fluoresces under an optical imaging system developed in tandem by a group of biomedical engineers in GE’s Research labs.
It has already optimized a prototype imaging system with a fluorescent imaging agent to localize to the margins of a tumor, providing a better chance of removing all of the cancer in a patient. One day, the nerve and tumor margin agents could be used together to show surgeons which tissues to remove, while also identifying sensitive areas, like nerves, to avoid.
For more information, visit: www.ge.com