SHEDDING LIGHT ON NEW DIAGNOSTIC TOOLS
In Assistant Professor Nimmi Ramanujam's hands, a beam of light becomes a powerful tool for diagnosing illness and performing medical miracles.
Researchers at UW Hospital are working with Ramanujam to develop a non-invasive technique to detect breast cancer during surgery or diagnosis.
"A hand-held probe will introduce light at certain wavelengths into the tissue," said Ramanujam. "The light will go through the tissue and come out at another wavelength as fluorescence; then you detect the light and its features. The wavelength properties and the intensity of the detected light tell you whether something is pre-cancerous, cancerous or normal. You analyze that information to learn something about a piece of tissue without having to remove it."
Ramanujam is also developing a near-infrared light monitor to detect oxygenation of fetuses. Currently, oxygenation is determined by indirect methods like the fetal heart rate, which is often highly inaccurate. Ramanujam's new, non-invasive optical application could prevent hundreds of unnecessary C-sections each year.
MAKING THE WORLD MORE ACCESSIBLE ONE PRODUCT AT A TIME
"If electronic products were usable by people who could not see, hear, or physically reach or manipulate controls, those people would probably feel less 'disabled' by the technology around them," said Chris Law, engineer at the Trace Research and Development Center, directed by Professor Gregg Vanderheiden.
Driven by a mission to provide better access to technology, the Trace Center developed EZ Access, an easy-to-use set of interface enhancements. It offers industry a cross-disability product solution that doesn't interfere with the way a person of average abilities could use the same product.
EZ Access techniques are inexpensive and consist of voice technology and simple navigation and selection controls that can be applied to many electronic consumer products, ATMs and a wide range of electronic voting systems.
In one application, the Trace Center is working with Viking Electronics of Hudson, Wisconsin, to build EZ Access into apartment entry systems. "Tech transfer to industry is helping us perfect this cross-disability product solution," said Law.
CREATING NEW IMAGING TECHNIQUES
Assistant Professor Walter Block's research is advancing magnetic resonance (MR) to entirely new levels. While working with the university's MR Angiography research lab, Block developed techniques to image a contrast injection as it flowed from the arterial to the venous system, but the work was not clinically feasible because the image processing took so long.
Now Block's new system allows him to pull data from the scanner and reconstruct it in real-time. This system simplifies several aspects of the exam, allowing the physician to view the results while the patient is still at the scanner. The system also offers exciting opportunities to modify the exam as it is performed based on the provided feedback.
Block plans to expand MR beyond its diagnostic uses to intervention purposes, like minimally invasive surgery. "For example, we'd like to do endovascular work: When a physician places a catheter into an artery or a vein, we can use MR to direct it where to go we can image the catheter and the treatment," said Block. "We're putting the components in place."