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New imaging technology company OnLume is lighting up the medical field – literally

Walk into any modern-day operating room and the landscape is widely universal: trays full of gleaming stainless steel, a non-descript operating table, a dark room with one big light beaming down overhead.

Due to fluorescent image-guided surgery, darkness in the operating room has been a necessity for the medical community… until now.

OnLume, a Madison-based medical device company, has developed imaging technology that relieves the need for dim lighting in the operating room without sacrificing image quality during FIGS procedures. The company was profiled as part of a new business series done this fall by UW-Madison students.

Fluorescent image-guided surgery is a process that uses fluorescence drugs to illuminate specific structures at a surgical site in real time. Using a camera and lighting, surgeons watch imaging on a screen to differentiate tissues, identify damaged cells and to assess tissue function.

This process produces high resolution, low-cost and minimally invasive procedures. Its drawbacks, however, lie in low imaging penetration capabilities due to interference from wavelengths in the visible spectrum – in other words, light.

“In general you need to darken the operating room for anything in the visible spectrum, but what our technology allows is for this procedure to be performed in a well lit operating room,” says Adam Uselmann, a medical physicist and engineer who co-designed OnLume’s technology.

Operating in a well-lit operating room provides huge potential for increased success outcomes in surgery – specifically in oncology. Pharmaceutical companies developed fluorescence probes that target and mark cancerous cells. Increased visibility and image quality in the operating room allows surgeons to identify remaining cells post surgery and thoroughly remove them.

This increases chances of success in fully extracting cancerous tumors, reducing the number of surgeries needed in the long run.

Currently, drugs compatible with old FIGS systems are limited. OnLume’s innovative camera and lighting system is compatible with every known fluorescence drug currently on the market and in development. Company leaders also predict compatibility with nearly any compound identified in the future. This versatility allows more flexibility in choosing safe and healthy options for each unique patient undergoing surgery.

As pharmaceutical markets continue to evolve, OnLume predicts it will keep pace.

Founded in 2015, OnLume’s technology and solutions are also compatible for veterinary use, and the company plans to integrate with those markets to produce similar benefits to those from the medical field.

This year’s Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium offered this rising company a chance to expand its platforms and continue to promote themselves to wider audiences. Last year, the team of six attended the event as spectators.

“It was very motivating to see the great innovative work going on in the region,” Adam says. “Now we are in a place where we are seeking to add funding, so the timing worked out really well.”

Created to light up operating rooms, one might say OnLume’s future appears bright.

--By Sarah Krier
Krier is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.


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