The National Institutes of Heath (NIH) is giving GE Healthcare, Waukesha, Wis, a four million dollar grant to further develop a new nerve imaging agent and surgical system. If successfully developed, the final product could help surgeons reduce nerve damage complications from surgeries.

The potential GE nerve imaging agent and imaging system is being developed to help surgeons view nerve endings that can be damaged during prostate surgery and other surgeries.

There are nerve-sparing procedures being used today, but damage can still result from not having a more precise way to visualize nerves. As a result, urinary and sexual dysfunctions are common side effects following a radical prostatectomy, and these effects can last well beyond the surgery.

Curtis A. Pettaway, MD, professor of urology and cancer biology and director of the MDACC Prostate Outreach Program at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, explained in the GE press release, “If the nerve relationship to the prostate and other structures could be more accurately identified, then nerve-sparing procedures could be more precisely performed. This is especially important for a radical prostatectomy, where there is a fine line between a positive tumor margin and nerve sparing.”

GE’s nerve labeling agent has been developed by a team of biologists and chemists in GE’s Research Center’s Biosciences labs. The agent is a fluorescent small molecule that localizes to myelin, a major component of motor nerves and clinically important sensory nerves, such as the cavernous nerves of the prostate. This agent then “lights up” under an optical imaging system developed in tandem by a group of biomedical engineers in GE’s Research labs.

Visit GE Global Research for more information.