Hamilton researchers use Google-Street-View-like tool for colon research
Mar 21, 2013
TORONTO – Researchers have taken a page out of Google’s book to develop an advanced scope that may enable doctors to look deeper into the colon and with more precision to better detect signs of cancer.
The scope would not only allow doctors performing a colonoscopy to get the standard forward-looking view, but would also capture images of the sides of the large bowel, similar to the way Google Street View provides a 360-degree picture of a road and its buildings.
“Unlike conventional colonoscopy, which only looks straight ahead, this new method can be likened to Google Street View, giving us a panoramic view of the colon and helping us identify the exact locations of suspicious growths or lesions,” says Dr. Qiyin Fang, Canada Research Chair in Biophotonics at McMaster University.
The device is armed with a near-infrared light camera that takes thousands of pictures and uses blood vessels as landmarks to create a map of the colon.
Like blood vessels in the skin and retina, the pattern of arteries and veins inside the colon are virtually unique to each person, said Dr. David Armstrong, a gastroenterologist at McMaster, who is part of the development team.
“We’ll be able to see where they branch, where they join together, where there are different patterns of branching and joinings together, so we can construct what looks like a map of the colon,” Armstrong said Monday from Hamilton.
“And because it’s likely to be unique as we go around (inside the colon), we’ll be able to tell firstly how far the scope has gone in and then secondly is there a unique pattern, like a street pattern, that you can look at and say, ‘OK, I know where about in the colon that is.’”
The views captured by the scope would be combined with pattern-recognition software to pinpoint certain locations on the map of a patient’s colon, a long, stretchy tube inside the abdomen that looks somewhat like an inverted “U.”
“And that means if we find a polyp or an abnormality there and we’ve got a picture of it, then we can go back and find that same thing again,” he said. “We can say that’s the junction of 4th and 52nd Street.
“If I do the procedure again in two years, I can retrieve the map that I had before and I can go around and say, ‘OK, there’s a funny little bit there, but that’s actually a different place from where we took the polyp off last time. It’s not a recurrence, it’s a new lesion.’”
Being able to identify as many pre-cancerous polyps and already malignant lesions as possible is critical for preventing and/or diagnosing and treating colorectal cancer, the second most common cause of cancer death for men and women combined.
Last year, an estimated 23,300 Canadians were diagnosed with colorectal cancer and 9,200 died of the disease, says the Canadian Cancer Society, which announced a $194,000 grant Tuesday for testing the innovative imaging technology.
Armstrong said it can be challenging for doctors performing a colonoscopy to advance the scope to the top of the right-hand side of the bowel, known as the ascending colon.
It is an area that often houses more deadly tumours, possibly because they are harder to detect in the pre-cancerous polyp phase. Typically, polyps look like blobs of tissue that grow on stalk-like appendages.
“But what we’re realizing is on the right-hand side of the colon, these polyps may be a little different, they may be flat rather than raised like little mushrooms and therefore they’re more difficult to see,” he said.
“One of the other things that may come out of it — it’s not clear, but it may — is if we’re using near-infrared images that show blood vessel patterns, if there are flat lesions they may actually distort the blood vessel pattern so it may make it easier to pick them up.”
Fang said the team plans to start testing a miniaturized version of the scope on animals — in this case, small pigs whose intestinal tract mimics that of humans — in about 18 months.
If the results are promising, clinical trials in people would follow in about another two to three years, he said.
The hope is to replace the current technology.
“If we have this, we won’t need the standard colonoscope because this provides a much better view and the ability to locate and remember where any abnormalities were,” Armstrong said.
“I think it’s exciting. I think it addresses a real need.”
Dr. Leyla Soleymani receives $100,000 from the ferderal government
November 22, 2012
Hamilton engineers have bold ideas to diagnose tuberculosis in hours instead of weeks.
Two assistant professors at McMaster University are each getting $100,000 Thursday from the federal government to tackle the same global health problem in vastly different ways.
It’s significant because the lag time in diagnosis allows the disease to spread.
“With tuberculosis, the weak link in the chain is diagnosis,” said Dr. Peter Singer, CEO of Grand Challenges Canada, which uses federal dollars to fund ideas with the potential to impact global health. “These projects are both taking the diagnosis of tuberculosis … closer to the care of the patient in the developing world, and faster.”
Leyla Soleymani is building a hand-held, solar rechargeable device for fast assessment of TB at the bedside.
Ravi Selvaganapathy hopes to significantly speed up traditional and trusted diagnostic methods of culture based testing, which is studying bacteria by growing them.
“I wasn’t expecting it would be funded because it goes counter to where the entire field of tuberculosis diagnosis is going,” he said. “It’s to their credit a radical idea like this is selected and funded.”
Selvaganapathy got the idea while working on sabbatical in India and noticing that doctors there don’t trust many of the new technologies for diagnosing tuberculosis so they don’t use them.
He decided to look for a way to make the trusted methods faster by breaking one sample into a million small samples that can be grown in a matter of hours instead of four to six weeks.
“The bacteria itself is very slow-growing and within that time, the patient could have spread that to numerous other people,” he said. “This is one of the big problems.”
The Hamilton projects are two of 17 funded in Canada, and 51 more are being funded in the developing world for a total of $7.2 million. There were 300 applications for the awards.
The McMaster researchers were chosen because tuberculosis is the second leading cause of death from infectious disease worldwide, after the multi-drug resistant.
Dr. John Luxat receives Achievement Award
November 13, 2012
Some great news: Dr. John Luxat has received the 2011 ANS Thermal Hydraulics Division Technical Achievement Award. This recognition from the American Nuclear Society is a very prestigious honour. Congratulations Dr. Luxat!
Dr. John Luxat has become a member of the International Nuclear Energy Academy – INEA
November 8, 2012
The Department is very pleased to pass on the good news that Dr. John Luxat has become a member of the International Nuclear Energy Academy – INEA. There are roughly 100 members of the Academy from around the world. We gather that John is the fifth Canadian member and the first from Canadian academia. Please join us in congratulating John!
Dr. Leyla Soleymani Rises to the Global Health Challenge
April 17, 2012
Dr. Leyla Soleymani, assistant professor in the department of Engineering Physics, is developing new diagnostic technologies to address global health challenges, such as the emerging multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. TB is the cause of nearly 1.5 million deaths per year world-wide and leaves many children orphaned.
Recently, Dr. Soleymani has developed one of the most sensitive microchips for DNA detection to date. She hopes to use this to change the way tuberculosis is diagnosed.
Currently, TB is diagnosed in laboratories by skilled technicians and this testing is often unavailable to the resource-poor and remote communities in high TB-burdened areas. Additionally, obtaining the results can take up to two months.
In collaboration with Dr. N.B. Ramachandra and his research group at the University of Mysore, India, Dr. Soleymani hopes to overcome these limitations.
Her idea is to move the testing from the research lab to the point of need. Her electronic microchip testing device is inexpensive, portable, and can be operated by anyone with basic training. The diagnostic results are obtained in less than one hour.
"The TB microtest will enable immediate therapy initiation, improve disease outcome, and reduce TB mortaility rate", says Soleymani.
Douglas R. Colton Medal for Research Excellence
The Department is pleased to congratulate Dr. Leyla Soleymani who has just been
awarded the Douglas R. Colton Medal for Research Excellence. This award is
given for research leading to new understanding and novel developments in microsystems and related technologies. She accepted the award at a ceremony in Ottawa in October.