NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

The war against breast cancer has a new weapon, thanks to an advanced sensor developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

The device, called the BioScan System TM, was developed by OmniCorder Technologies, Inc., Stony Brook, N.Y. OmniCorder received clearance to market the system from the Food and Drug Administration in December 1999.

Studies have determined that cancer cells exude nitric oxide. This causes changes in blood flow in tissue surrounding cancer that can be detected by the sensor. The BioScan System TM is sensitive to temperature changes of less than .015 degree Celsius (.027 degree Fahrenheit) and has a speed of more than 200 frames per second. It causes no discomfort to the patient and uses no ionizing radiation.

"Clearance for use of this noninvasive diagnostic tool is an important milestone for us," said OmniCorder president and CEO Mark Fauci, who noted that the device has also been cleared to be marketed for other applications.

The sensor, called the Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector (QWIP), was invented by Dr. Sarath Gunapala, principal engineer of JPL's Device Research and Applications Section. The digital sensor detects the infrared energy emitted from the body, thus "seeing" the minute differences associated with blood flow changes. Earlier versions of QWIP had potential applications, such as locating hot spots during fires and observing volcanoes.

"It is a great pleasure to see something I invented being used for public benefit," said Gunapala, "especially in medicine and even more so in the early detection of cancer."

The BioScan System TM also uses Dynamic Area Telethermometry TM, invented by Dr. Michael Anbar, founding scientist of OmniCorder. The two technologies work together to image the target area and to provide the physician with immediate diagnostic information.

JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.

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