U Colorado and Quest Get $1 Million Grant for New Digitally Controlled Endoscopes

The University of Colorado at Boulder and Quest Product Development have been awarded a $1 million Small Business Technology Transfer grant by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue the development of a next-generation endoscope. MicroFlex technology, derived from aerospace engineering, uses shape metal alloys and micro-actuators that allow active control over the shape of the scope for minimally invasive surgery.

Surgeons will guide this ultra-slim 3mm (1/8-inch) diameter scope via a joystick-like control and can reach previously inaccessible spaces to visualize and diagnose problems. Specialized tools fit through the scope for therapeutic and surgical procedures.

"We're excited about the potential of this technology to access small areas of the anatomy," said Dr. Dale Lawrence, UC professor and inventor of the technology.

MicroFlex endoscopes may provide easier out-patient surgery for patients suffering from chronic sinusitis. The sinus application, the first of many potential uses of this technology, was selected due to the prevalence of chronic sinusitis, which affects 33 million Americans, and the challenge of surgery and treatment in these difficult anatomical structures.

Development is being done by Lawrence's research group at CU Boulder, physicians at the Health Sciences Center in Denver, and an engineering team from Quest Product Development. A second NIH grant funded research demonstrating that MicroFlex devices can be fabricated as small as 1mm (0.04") diameter, which will allow access deep into areas of the lungs not currently possible, for diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. Ultimately, MicroFlex technology may provide a useful tool for diagnostic and surgical care for a variety of medical uses including ear-nose-throat, lung, neurosurgery, neonatal, and cardiac applications.

Quest Product Development, a specialized engineering and product development company focusing on medical products and Colorado bioscience, teams with universities and companies to develop new technologies.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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