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UTHealth’s research on night vision for lymphedema to be presented at conference

HOUSTON - (Sept. 4, 2012) - The use of night vision to get real-time images of the nearly invisible lymphatic system is being studied at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School. The results of that research will be reported during the National Lymphedema Network conference in Dallas Sept. 5-9.

As many as 5 million people in the United States suffer from lymphedema, a chronic swelling condition for which there is no cure.  The lymphatic system has been described as the body’s sewer system. It removes cellular debris through a network of vessels. Lymphatic fluid and vessels are clear and hard to see.

Lymphedema stems from the disruption of lymph flow, which can result from surgery, radiation, infection or trauma. In developing countries, parasites are a major cause. Some people also have a genetic predisposition.

While caregivers can treat the swelling with compression garments and massage, they cannot treat the root cause. In fact, little progress has been made in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease in over 80 years.

Getting real-time images of the lymphatic system has always been problematic. Scientists in the laboratory of UTHealth professor Eva Sevick, Ph.D., have developed a radiation-free solution that involves night vision technology. With the aid of near-infrared technology and tiny amounts of fluorescent dye, researchers can take pictures of the moving fluid with tiny amounts of light that can be seen through the skin.

Members in her research team, including John Rasmussen, Ph.D., I-Chih Tan, Ph.D., Melissa Aldrich, Ph.D., Caroline E. Fife, M.D., and Germaine Agollah, will present the latest research on several topics using this technology in clinical trials.  The topics include: the involvement of lymphatics in skin cancer; association of cardiovascular malformations and lymphatic disorders; lymphatic abnormalities after breast cancer treatments; the effect of pneumatic compression for treating lymphatic dysfunction in venous stasis ulcers; and genetics of lymphedema.

Long associated with cancer treatment, lymphedema has also been linked to heart and lung problems. In addition to presenting four cases studies on this link, Spanish-speaking UTHealth assistant professor Erik Maus, M.D., will share results of a head-to-head comparison of two types of air-powered compression sleeves used to control limb swelling.

The international conference, “Research Round Up,” will be held at the Omni Dallas Hotel, 555 S. Lamar.

Interviews in English and Spanish can be arranged by calling Rob Cahill, UTHealth media relations, 713.500.3030, or 832.755.8950.


Rob Cahill
Media Contact: 713-500-3030