Flashes of brilliance

The Verisante Aura detects melanomas. The VELscope highlights oral cancers. The PortaMon looks for bladder disease. Three distinct devices, but all three are examples of UBC researchers developing or deploying various forms of light to find pathologies that elude old-fashioned examination with the naked eye.

  • The Verisante Aura (demonstrated in photo at right by one of its co-inventors, David McLean, a Professor and former Head of the Department of Dermatology and Skin Science) exploits a phenomenon known as the Raman shift — the change in energy when light is scattered by a chemical bond, in this case, the bonds found in tissue molecules. “The shift tells you something about the chemistry of the skin,” says Harvey Lui, Head of the Department of Dermatology and Skin Science, and one of the device’s co-inventors.
  • The VELscope generates “blue light” that, when reflected and viewed through optical filters, can distinguish between healthy tissue (which emits a greenish glow) and cancerous tissue (no glow). UBC researchers are now leading a trial on 400 patients at nine sites across Canada to evaluate its effectiveness in reducing the recurrence of oral cancer.
  • The PortaMon measures how much near-infrared light bounces back from the bladder wall when projected through the skin; the resulting data reveals oxygen levels and blood flow that indicate whether the organ’s muscles are functioning properly. A UBC team has found that the cellphone-sized device is as reliable as the current “gold standard” tests, urethral and rectal catheters, which are stressful and painful for patients.

Read more about these inventions — and UBC’s role in making the most of them — in the latest issue of UBC Medicine magazine.


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