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Optical Technology Covers Soldiers on Battlefield

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DOUGLAS FARMER, SENIOR EDITOR
[email protected]

IRVINE, Calif., June 26, 2020 — Military personnel have sophisticated technology at their fingertips in combat, and thanks to a federally funded research program, they may soon also have optical technologies ranging from wearable sensors to point-of-care imaging devices to help diagnose and treat their wounds. The Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) recently announced $6.8 million in continued funding to the Beckman Laser Institute at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) to continue in the creation of medical technologies for this purpose.
Clarifi, a commercial spatial frequency domain imaging device manufactured by Modulim, is based on technology developed at UCI for tissue assessment including burns and wounds. Image courtesy of Modulim.
Clarifi, a commercial spatial frequency domain imaging device manufactured by Modulim, is based on technology developed at the University of California, Irvine for tissue assessment, including burns and wounds. Image courtesy of Modulim.

Called “Advanced Optical Technologies for Defense Trauma and Critical Care,” the program incorporates eight different projects aimed at evaluation and treatment, with another targeted for traumatic brain injury. These projects include the development of wearable sensors for monitoring of physiological information; adaptation of flow-enhanced pulse oximetry for monitoring patients; creation of a compact blood-coagulation analyzer; an enhanced surgical camera to identify burns and wounds; invention of an optical coherence tomography tool to diagnose airway damage; validation of a hand-held, point-of-care wound imaging device; and development of an in vitro assay system for mechanisms of traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries.

Michael Berns, UCI’s Arnold and Mabel Beckman chair in laser biomedicine and distinguished professor of surgery, biomedical engineering, and developmental and cell biology, said the program received its first grant in 1986 and since then has come to benefit all branches of the military. Berns serves as the principal investigator for the grant at the Beckman Laser Institute, which is projected to continue through March 2023.

“There are seven or eight distinct projects, each run buy a faculty member (or two), and each focused on a particular photonic application/technology,” he said. “Interestingly, the program started out in the 1980s with an equal emphasis on basic research and applied technology. But over the years it became clear that there was no real medical application, so the focus of the program changed to be more on a combination of research on laser interaction with tissue/cells and the development of biophotonic diagnostic and therapeutic modalities.”

The Military Medical Photonics Program (MMPP) is a photonics and light-based program focused on meeting military medical needs with diagnostic, imaging, and therapeutic solutions based on optical science and technology. The AFOSR currently oversees the program, ranging from biological medical sciences to physics, chemistry, and engineering, with imaging researchers expected to work alongside others in fields such as acoustics, electronics, micromechanics, and nanotechnology.

The MMPP is currently funded at about $10 million annually and involves research groups at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at the Massachusetts General Hospital-Harvard and UCI’s Beckman Laser Institute, with other research activities occurring at Stanford University and the Army Institute for Surgical Research. William Roach and Patrick Bradshaw, MMPP program managers, pointed to developments such as fractional laser scar treatment currently in use; retinal prosthesis undergoing clinical trials in the U.S.; photochemical tissue bonding for peripheral nerve repair awaiting joint funding; and low-level light therapy brain dysfunction and wound healing for which there is growing commercial interest.

Roach, Bradshaw, and Berns confirmed that a number of startup companies have sprung up to commercialize these innovations. Modulim, for example, has a product called Clarifi, for assessment of blood microcirculation and will soon be used in connection with diabetic ulcers. OCT Medical Imaging Inc. also has a device undergoing Food and Drug Administration approval for intravascular imaging.

Photonics.com
Jun 2020
Research & TechnologyOCTimagingopticsBiophotonicsmedical imagingpoint of careDiagnosisdiagnosticsBeckman Laser Institutedefense

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