Combine optical technology with biomedicine and neurosurgery . This is the challenge that the Cantabrian firm Fotoglass now has in hand , which has made the leap from developing luminescent tissues or ceramics to creating surgical instruments to help neurosurgeons to differentiate healthy tissue from tumor in an operation to remove glioblastoma (one of the most common brain tumors).
Specifically, together with the Marqués de Valdecillas Hospital , the IDIVAL institute and the University of Cantabria , they have patented two devices, which have a shape similar to that of a pencil, based on plasmonic technology (plasmonic chip) with nanosensors capable of identifying, in real time, necrotic tissue, tumor and peritumoral tissue , thanks to extraordinary optical transmission, a phenomenon generated by the excitation of the chip’s surface plasmons.
This team of researchers, led by the heads of Fotoglass (the doctors and professors of the University of Cantabria Francisco González and Fernando Moreno -member of the Optical Society of America- and José Luis Fernández , head of Genetics at the Marqués de Valdecilla Hospital and responsible of research at IDIVAL) has created these devices with the aim of helping the neurosurgeon to detect the tumor margins, without the need to remove tissue not damaged by the tumor, explains Fernando Moreno to INNOVATORS.
This project, in which a multinational surgical equipment company has already shown interest, is a clear example of how “the ‘bio’ area mixed with [optical] physics is a cocktail with a lot of potential” in the medical sector, because it allows giving new steps, González points out: “It was already able to distinguish healthy tissue from another that is not, but now we are able to do so without destroying it . ” Ultimately, these devices allow the professional to obtain information in real time during the surgical intervention and easily interpret it to make decisions.
In its beginnings in 2009, this company specialized in developing optical technology applied to industrial sectors as diverse as textiles, ceramics or food. “We are able to see anything that is needed, for example, in the food industry discover traces that cannot be detected in the processes or in the textile make a garment visible without being focused by a light”, points out Paloma Rovira , operational manager.
Without abandoning this line of industrial R&D, Fotoglass has evolved to incorporate biotechnology in its developments and thus enhance the incipient concept of ‘bio-optics’. At that time, José Luis Fernández joined the company. This new area of the company has also allowed Fotoglass to adapt in these times of the Covid-19 pandemic. Rovira points out that, given the proliferation of disinfection devices that use UVC ultraviolet light on surfaces and air systems to kill the presence of the coronavirus, it has been detected that many do not have a validation of the “germicidal effect”, that is, in what degree are killing this pathogen.
Thus, Fotoglass has developed a biodosimeter with live microorganisms , as a sensor to validate the response to UVC of this type of equipment. These biodosimeters are placed in strategic areas to validate devices or areas where UV light has been applied. Thus, it is combined with optical radiometry to validate the parameters of the UVC doses that are required to kill the Covid-19 pathogens and achieve more than 99% disinfection, explains Fernández.
In this sense, they are aimed at devices that use UVC in sectors such as the automotive industry, public and private transport (metro, AVE, buses), hotels and health centers. The biodosimeter developed by Fotoglass is based on “potentially pathogenic models, but genetically treated, in such a way in the laboratory, that they cease to be a danger and maintain biosafety levels” during the validation processes, its managers add.