Houston: Houston-based University has
signed an agreement with other institutions that will allow it
to take the next step in commercially developing an innovative
medical imaging system that uses night vision technology to
tackle a common side effect of cancer treatment.
ls in the Office of Technology Management at
University of Texas Health Science Centre (UTHealth) have
consolidated all patents and patent applications to the
radiation-free system developed by UTHealth research scientist
Eva Sevick, PhD and collaborators.
Currently being studied in Food and Drug
Administration-approved clinical trials, the imaging system is
being used to learn more about the lymphatic system and its
role in disease.
Sometimes called the body`s second circulatory system,
the lymphatic system transports everything from immune cells
to blood components while playing a critical role in the
immune system and maintaining fluid balance.
Comparatively speaking, little is known about the
lymphatic system and accurate imaging remains an obstacle,
said Sevick, professor and Cullen Chair of Molecular Medicine
at UTHealth`s Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine
for the Prevention of Human Diseases.
Cancer treatments, including associated surgeries, can
damage or destroy the lymphatic system and lead to a condition
called lymphedema, which is associated with limb swelling and
"Use of this system may allow clinicians to diagnose
damage to a patient`s lymphatic system well before symptoms
develop. As a result, doctors using this system may be able to
more accurately determine when to place patients on a
different therapeutic regimen in order to avoid some of the
more extreme symptoms from lymphedema," Sevick said.
Lymphedema occurs in 0.6 per cent of live births,
according to the Lymphatic Research Foundation (LRF); however,
most acquire it as result of surgery, infection or trauma that
interferes with the lymphatic system.
Approximately 30 per cent of breast cancer survivors
develop lymphedema, according to the LRF.
The 19 patents and patent applications covering the
system were previously held by a total of four separate
academic institutions: Baylor College of Medicine, Purdue
University, Texas A&M University and UTHealth.
UTHealth recently assumed management of the entire
Baylor College of Medicine and the Texas A&M
University System signed an agreement with UTHealth to make
the consolidation of the patent portfolio a reality and to
make the entire portfolio available for commercial
During Sevick`s five years with Texas A&M and the
Texas Engineering Experiment Station, she was granted several
of these patents.
"This agreement provides a great example of local
academic institutions working together to bundle intellectual
property around an important, innovative technology to make it
more attractive to commercial investment. We look forward to
working with a commercial partner to get this technology into
the clinic," said Bruce D Butler, PhD., vice president for
research and technology at UTHealth.
The system involves micro doses of fluorescent dyes
and specially modified near infrared cameras.
With the aid of the light sensitive cameras, Sevick
and her colleagues can observe a fluorescent dye as it works
its way through the lymphatic system, indicating valve
behavior and flow dynamics.
The fluorescent light emission can be seen through the
skin by the camera.
In contrast to systems that use computed tomography
(CT) scanners or positron emission tomography (PET) imagers,
the cameras used in this system are relatively inexpensive and
easy to use, Sevick said.
Additionally, the contrast dyes used in this system
are non-radioactive and can generate images at micro dosing
levels. The ability to administer micro doses dramatically
reduces the potential for side effects to the patient from the
dyes and facilitates approval of the technology through the
regulatory process, she said.