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Dr. Samuel Achilefu

Nigerian born, Dr. Samuel Achilefu is the Director of Optical Radiology at the Washington University in St. Louis. With the help of a team of scientists, he has invented a pair of high-tech goggles which helps surgeons ‘see’ cancerous cells. When surgeons remove a tumor, diseased tissues can be hard to distinguish from healthy ones. A fluorescent marker and special goggles make cancer cells appear to glow under infrared light, so surgeons have an easier time removing them. Achilefu and his research team accomplished this using materials already approved for use in cancer patients

First, surgeons inject a tiny quantity of an infrared fluorescent marker into the patient’s bloodstream.  After the tracer flows through a patient’s body which takes about four hours – the operation would begin. The goggles have been used on humans for the first time by surgeons at the Washington University School of Medicine. Four patients suffering from breast cancer and over two dozens patients with melanoma or liver cancer have been operated on using the goggles since they were developed.

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Achilefu’s research was initially funded by Washington University and the Department of Defense’s Breast Cancer Research Program. To develop the goggles, he assembled a team that included engineers and video game specialists. After successfully using the technology in rodents, his team received in 2012 a $2.8 million federal grant, paving the way for use in patients. The results will soon be used to seek FDA approval of the device so other surgeons across the country can start using the technology.

Achilefu is an alumnus of world-renowned Oxford University, where he completed his Postdoctoral Fellowship moved to the U.S. in 1993. He lives in the St. Louis area with his wife and two teenage children.

To see a video on how the goggles work click on the link below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJjxDHYoMgE

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