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Niskayuna, NY, United States, 2010/06/09 - New technology could help avoid nerve damage and reduce complications from surgeries, including prostate and facial surgery. NYSE: GE
Researchers from GE Global Research announced today that they have been awarded a four-year, $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to optimize a new nerve labeling agent and imaging system. In the future, this agent could help surgeons see delicate nerve endings that are prone to damage during certain procedures, such as prostate surgery.
Already, the team of scientists from GE Global Research has 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.
Dr. Curtis A. Pettaway, M.D., Professor of Urology and Cancer Biology and Director of the MDACC Prostate Outreach Program at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, said, "GE's imaging technology could help more clearly distinguish nerves during surgery facilitating surgical management. If the nerve relationship to the prostate and other structures could be more accurately identified, then nerve-sparing procedures could be more precisely performed. This is especially important for a radical prostatectomy, where there is a fine line between a positive tumor margin and nerve sparing."
“Nerves surrounding the prostate are often challenging to see and precisely locate during surgery”, said Cristina Tan Hehir, biochemist and project leader on the Nerve Imaging project. “The hope is that the technologies being developed by GE could offer surgeons a much clearer line of sight to these nerves in the operating room. This could enhance surgical procedures and improve patient outcomes.”
Nerve sparing procedures are being used today, but damage can still result from not having a more precise way to visualize nerves. Preventing complications from nerve damage following prostate cancer surgery remain one of the greatest unmet needs. According to published studies, urinary and sexual dysfunction were common even 5 years following a radical prostatectomy. About 70% of patients did not regain potency, and nearly 13% reported moderate or significant incontinence problems.
GE’s nerve labeling agent, developed by a team of biologists and chemists in the Research Center’s Biosciences labs, is a fluorescent small molecule that localizes to myelin. Myelin is a major component of motor nerves and clinically important sensory nerves, such as the cavernous nerves of the prostate. This agent then fluoresces, or lights up under an optical imaging system developed in tandem by a group of biomedical engineers in GE’s Research labs.
GE scientists already optimized a prototype imaging system with a fluorescent imaging agent to localize to the margins of a tumor to provide a better chance of removing all of the cancer. The nerve and tumor margin agents could one day be used together to show surgeons what tissue to remove while also identifying sensitive areas such as nerves to avoid.
About GE Global Research
GE Global Research is the hub of technology development for all of GE's businesses. Our scientists and engineers redefine what’s possible, drive growth for our businesses and find answers to some of the world’s toughest problems.
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