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A new type of imaging that uses benign infrared radiation may improve the accuracy of mammograms.
Prof. Samson Mil’shtein of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department has received one of four grants announced by UMass President Jack M. Wilson to accelerate the commercialization of technologies developed in UMass laboratories.
The grants are awarded from the CVIP Technology Development Fund of the Office of Commercial Ventures and Intellectual Property. Replenished by licensing revenues, the fund has completed three award cycles, providing researchers with supplemental funding not available from other sources.
The $20,000, one-year grant will fund development of a prototype infrared imaging machine to be used at the Leominster location of the UMass Medical Center. The novel infrared (IR) imaging system is low cost and allows one to scan parts of the body to visualize different tissues ߝ bones and cartilages, tendons, muscles, ligaments, blood vessels ߝ some of which cannot be detected by conventional x-rays.
The new study is based on earlier animal studies, conducted in collaboration with Prof. Thomas Shea of the UML Biological Sciences Department, that investigated the use of IR imaging on injected tumors in mice.
“Examining a non-restricted mouse required certain skills from the graduate student, Nyom Lue,” says Mil’shtein. “Results were encouraging ߝ the IR imaging made the tumors visible at a very early stage. Following these first experiments, the IR system was modified and incorporated into a scanner by doctoral students John Palma and Christopher Liessner, and we began to think about applying IR diagnostics to mammography.”
At the UMass Medical Center, the experimental goal is to collect test images in parallel with conventional x-ray mammography.
“Mammograms are often inconclusive and rely on the intuition of the oncologist to decide whether to order an MRI,” explains Mil’shtein. “So we will compare the x-ray and infrared images against the MRI images. Our target is to verify that IR imaging is capable of seeing the tumors earlier than x-ray examination. We also hope to visualize the morphology of tumors in more detail than current x-ray mammography provides.”
The prototype development and testing are steps that may lead to licensing of the novel technology. Says Mil’shtein, “We consulted on the commercialization plan with Paul Wormser of the CVIP office and got good suggestions. With only four awards, the competition with many projects from other campuses was tough and the support of our home campus was important.”
CVIP is responsible for the commercialization of discoveries made on the five campuses of UMass. Licensing of UMass intellectual property generated approximately $28.5 million in FY ’05 for the University.