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2 awarded patents for health-related technology

By : Susan E. Barker


Two Binghamton University researchers have been awarded patents for new ideas in health care diagnoses and treatment.

Chemist Omowunmi Sadik, an expert in advanced sensor development, has been awarded a patent for a technology that could improve the ability to track and treat tumors.

A patent issued to Professor Kenneth J. McLeod, chair of bioengineering, and Clinton T. Rubin, professor and chair of biomedical engineering at Stony Brook, recognizes a new, non-invasive method of monitoring balance and posture in the elderly.

Sadik’s technology, which will eventually be incorporated into a tiny biosensor that can be injected into the body, will help detect and image tumors in blood and tissues. Sadik estimates the technology will be ready for clinical testing in three to four years.

Gallium is a radioactive substance commonly used to locate cancer cells or inflammation. In current practice, small amounts are injected into the body and are taken up by rapidly dividing cells in bones, tissues and organs. Since infected or cancerous tissues bind naturally with gallium, scans “light up” in diseased areas. Generally, patients have the gallium injection, then come back three to four days later for the scan.

Sadik said her technology provides a rapid, low-cost means for detecting gallium with even greater selectivity when tested against more than 30 metal ions. It is also extremely sensitive, detecting gallium in the parts per billion range. Testing formats based on the new technology have been established. Sadik expects to continue laboratory work to enhance selectivity during the next few years while a sensor suitable for injecting in patients is readied for clinical testing.

McLeod’s patent builds on his fundamental research into the interaction of the nervous, muscular and cardiovascular systems.

“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 improvements after sessions of at least 10 minutes a day over a minimum of four weeks. A sister patent issued this spring addressed a related technique for measuring stability and changes 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 a bathroom scale to measure postural stability,” McLeod said. “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.”

Currently, measuring postural stability can only be done in hospitals and laboratories using large costly equipment.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08