This column presents technologies that have applications in commercial areas, possibly creating the products of tomorrow. To learn more about each technology, see the contact information provided for that innovation.
Contact Lens Could Treat Serious Eye Disease
The University of New Hampshire created a hydrogel that could one day be made into a contact lens to more effectively treat corneal melting, a condition that is a significant cause for blindness worldwide. With this incurable eye disease, the patient’s cornea melts due to the uncontrolled production of certain zinc-dependent enzymes by the patient’s immune cells in the cornea. The hydrogel is localized in the eye and deactivates the enzymes by eliminating the zinc ions from the cornea. The end goal is to make the hydrogel into a contact lens that would allow more localized treatment of the eye and avoid side effects in the rest of the body. And since it would be a contact lens, if there were any issues, the patient could simply remove it.
Contact: Robbin Ray, Communications and Public Affairs
Hermetic Seal Leak Detection
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center developed an apparatus for use in nondestructive testing of hermetic seals of containers or instrumentation. The device is capable of detecting both large and small leaks and can be calibrated to characterize the relative leak rate. The system is sensitive enough to detect a container leak of 10-6 cc/sec in less than a minute and multiple test units can be tested in parallel. The leak detection system chamber can be of any size or shape to accommodate any type of sealed object. It does not require specialized gases for pressurization and detection, and eliminates the need for expensive instrumentation such as a mass spectrometer. The technology is ideal for use in many industries, from aerospace applications to food packaging and commercial goods.
Contact: Sammy Nabors, Marshall Space Flight Center
Optical Imaging System Finds Tiny Tumors
Many types of cancer could be more easily treated if they were detected at an earlier stage. MIT researchers have developed DOLPHIN (Detection of Optically Luminescent Probes using Hyperspectral and diffuse Imaging in Near-infrared), which could enable them to find tiny tumors, as small as a couple hundred cells, deep within the body. The system relies on near-infrared light and can detect a signal to a tissue depth of 8 centimeters — far deeper than any existing biomedical optical imaging technique. The researchers hope to adapt the imaging technology for early detection of other types of cancers that are currently difficult to detect until late stages, including pancreatic, brain, and skin cancer.