Binghamton University chemist Omowunmi Sadik, an expert in the field of advanced sensor development, has been awarded a patent for a technology that could soon be improving physicians’ ability to track and treat tumors.
The technology, which will eventually be incorporated into a tiny biosensor that can be injected into the body, will help researchers and doctors detect and image tumors by binding with gallium in blood and tissues. Sadik estimates an in vivo sensor developed from the technology will be ready for clinical testing within the next three to four years.
Gallium is a radioactive substance commonly used by doctors to locate cancer cells or areas of inflammation. In current practice, a very small amount of radioactive gallium is injected into a vein and travels through the bloodstream. The gallium is taken up by rapidly dividing cells in the bones, tissues, and organs and is detected by a scanner. Tissues that are infected or cancerous have a very high affinity for gallium and it therefore migrates to those tissues. When a scan is performed those areas “light up” on the image. Generally, patients have the gallium injection one day, then come back three to four days later for the actual scan.
Sadik said her technology provides a rapid, low-cost means for detecting gallium, along with even greater selectivity than existing instrumentation. The selectivity of Sadik’s bioassay was tested under routine clinical conditions with over 30 metal ions other than gallium, with no observable interference from any of them, she said. Sadik’s assay is also extremely sensitive, detecting gallium in the parts per billion range. Prototype assay formats based on the new technology have been established and successfully tested. Sadik expects to continue laboratory work to enhance selectivity during the next few years while a sensor suitable for in vivo use is designed and readied for clinical testing.
Another recent patent issued to Binghamton Professor Kenneth J. McLeod; chair of the Department of Bioengineering, and Clinton T. Rubin, professor and chair, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Stony Brook University is for a non-invasive method of treating postural instability in the elderly. The patent builds on and stems from McLeod’s fundamental research into the workings and interactions of the nervous system, muscular system, and cardiovascular system.
“The main reason older people fall is because they lose their balance,” McLeod said. “And that is most often due to age-related muscle loss, particularly of Type IIA muscles, the kind of muscles involved in fine postural control.”
The patent is for a treatment strategy and vibrational device that can improve involuntary postural control by stimulating the development of Type IIA muscle fibers. Research shows that treatment efficacy can be noted with sessions of at least 10 minutes a day over a minimum of four weeks. A sister patent issued this past spring addressed a related technique for rapidly characterizing postural stability and therefore for recording changes for the better or worse as a result of activities, aging or a variety of factors.
“Basically, we can make a device for about the size and probably the cost of bathroom scale to measure postural stability. Research shows that people tend to continue behaviors only when they can get relatively immediate feedback about whether their exercise or therapeutic interventions are working,” McLeod said. Making such feedback readily available in the home would replace current technologies for measuring postural stability, which are generally only available in hospitals and laboratories and involve large pieces of equipment that cost in the range of $150,000.