Upstarts: For Heartburn…And More

Winter 2018


Patients with chronic acid reflux and other esophageal issues run an increased risk
of cancer. But biopsies are cumbersome, with dozens of slices that are frequently inconclusive. A fiber-optic endomicroscope developed from research done by Xingde Li, a professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, is likely to significantly improve diagnosis and treatment.

Three years ago, Johns Hopkins issued a license on the device’s patent to Micro-Tech Endoscopy. The Food and Drug Administration approved its clinical use in November 2016, and it is now being used in the field, including by the Mayo Clinic. The device, called LuminScan, lets the examining physician do high-resolution scans of the esophagus at a clip of 50 to 100 cross-sections per second. The physician marks suspicious areas, returning to them to do biopsies.

Updated versions of the device that Li is working on will boost the resolution fourfold and allow in vivo examination that does away with the need for tissue removal. The potential goes far beyond those with heartburn, though. Similar applications are expected for airways, pancreatic ducts, and even the brain.