Ultrasound: Expanding Commercial Horizons

By Richard Hendriks, Ph.D., Nerac Analyst – Biological Sciences

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Pregnancy ultrasounds are well known. Do you know that its first practical use was for naval detection of large objects, propelled by the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 as it collided with an iceberg south of Newfoundland?

We’re all familiar with using ultrasound to observe pregnancies in hospital settings. Its first practical use was for naval detection of large objects, propelled by the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 as it collided with an iceberg south of Newfoundland, when one month later, the first patent for large object detection using acoustic echolocation was filed at the British Patent Office (GB191209423) by English meteorologist, Lewis Richardson. This was quickly followed by a second patent application by Richardson, again published by the British Patent Office (GB191211125). While the ‘423 patent, titled ‘Apparatus for Warning a Ship of its Approach to Large Objects in a Fog’ employed sound waves traveling through air, over the surface of the sea, the subsequent ‘125 patent, titled ‘Apparatus for Warning a Ship at Sea of its Nearness to Large Objects Wholly or Partly under Water’ is an adaptation of this method to make it work underwater.

Interest in the effects of ultrasound on biological organisms began not long after.

The therapeutic potential of ultrasound also started to emerge around the 1930s, with the notable work of the French physicist, André Dognon. Along with colleagues, Elio and Hugo Biancani, this work began in earnest with a stand-alone ‘hand-held’ transducer (referenced in the review by Duck, F. 2021). Further, the 1925 French patent by Brillouin L. titled ‘Méthode de massage vibratoire indirect et dispositif pour la réalisation de cette méthode’ which was also published in English as GB252000A and titled ‘Improvements in or relating to vibratory massage’, describes a process in which ultra-audible waves are converted into mechanical vibrations by alternating currents. They are used to “penetrate the body of the invalid [SIC] immersed in proximity in the liquid”. Improvements in therapy continued, as exemplified by Siemens 1935 patent for a elastically deformable transducer for treating patients with ultrasonic waves (DE654673C). After the second world war, several companies ventured into therapeutic ultrasound.

Ultrasound for medical diagnosis emerged thereafter, although early diagnostics were crude and full of adverse effects.

Since then, numerous guidelines and safety parameters have been put into place for the use of today’s ultrasound devices. The overall safety of ultrasound diagnostics during pregnancy is fairly well established, although still somewhat controversial, since four studies have indicated some association between the use of ultrasound during pregnancy and potential harm to the developing fetal brain, as manifested by dyslexia, delayed speech development, impaired vision and hearing and a number of other outcomes (see review by Gail ter Haar, 2011). However, much larger controlled trials (Kieler, H et. al., 1998; Salvesen, K.A., 1992, 1994) found no statistically significant associations between ultrasound exposure and dyslexia. Overall, modern diagnostic ultrasound during pregnancy seems unlikely to damage the fetal brain in utero (Torloni, M.R., 2009).

Modern diagnostic ultrasound has come a long way since the early days of Lewis Richardson’s inventions. But what is on the horizon and beyond?

The Nerac Connection

Nerac can help clients identify published literature and patents that use ultrasound as a treatment modality for applications ranging from muscle or bone healing to cellular repair and beyond. For example, a 2023 PCT patent application WO2023/114011, filed by Board Of Regents, The University Of Texas System, can be considered a highly relevant patent document for a particular therapeutic application. As stated in the abstract, The methods described in the patent address the use of ultrasound to initiate mechanical stretching of cells, even within the body of an organism, which in turn provides for a treatment modality that can reverse characteristics of a subset of these cells. Moreover, the abstract further states…. “reversal by ultrasound involves at least one of: activates cell growth, reduces cell size, increases secretion of growth factors, increases mitochondrial fission and/or promotes wound healing. Ultrasound treatment improves the function of aged individuals, of specific organs, of wound healing and enables the greater expansion of normal cells in vitro. Ultrasound can be delivered in spas for the whole organism or smaller targeted ultrasound devices can be made for specific organs or cell applications”. Additionally, several key non-patent literature references were identified by Nerac.

With this information Nerac’s clients are in a better position to assess the innovation and research landscape associated with this particular aspect of ultrasound’s treatment capabilities. The prior art could enable the clients to assess the ability to file for a patent in this area, and thereby strengthen their company’s competitive edge. This illustration is one example of how Nerac helps clients with their technology research, development, inventive and commercialization strategies.

How Can Nerac Help?

The first step Nerac takes when preparing to conduct a research request or patent landscape is to have a detailed discussion with our client to identify key questions they would like Nerac’s report to answer. Is the report looking at the competitive landscape, or are focused research findings more of an emphasis? How about technology scouting for available white space opportunities? Is your company entering a new area of technology? Do you need a comprehensive picture of the intellectual property players and trends? Or perhaps a detailed report with Conclusions, Recommendations, Insight and Key References?

Once we have set the parameters for the type of questions which need to be answered, Nerac analysts design the appropriate search protocols to gather the required relevant references, using an extensive collection of resources, most of which are aggregated in-house. The team of analysts at Nerac have many years of experience and are adept at homing in on a solution to the client’s requests. Since every report Nerac generates is customized, the focus and limitations are entirely up to our clients; Nerac facilitates their end goals.

Contact us here to learn more!

About the Analyst

Richard Hendriks, Ph.D, Nerac Analyst

Analyst Richard Hendriks, Ph.D., partners with pharmaceutical and biotech companies to discover the most effective ways of meeting their business goals. This encompasses a range of solutions from innovations in biotechnology to analytical assessments of recent treatment advances.

Academic Credentials

  • Ph.D., Neuroscience, University of Melbourne, Australia
  • B.Sc., Hons, Medical Physiology, Flinders University of South Australia
  • B.Sc., Biophysics, Flinders University of South Australia (FUSA)

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