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Nitesh Katta receives 2021 SPIE-Franz Hillenkamp Fellowship

15 Dec 2020

Award supports research into use of cold laser wire for surgical procedures.

The 2021 SPIE-Franz Hillenkamp Postdoctoral Fellowship will be awarded to Nitesh Katta, who received his PhD in 2019 from the University of Texas at Austin.

The award of $75,000 is in support of Katta's research currently under way with the Beckman Laser Institute (BLI), into the use of a cold laser wire as a surgical tool for removal of calcified material in arteries.

"I am deeply grateful to receive this support from such a distinguished organization as SPIE and feel very humbled to have the SPIE-Hillenkamp fellowship committee recognize the value of this work," said Katta.

"Receiving this award will enable me to conduct the necessary research work and translational training to bring a medical device from a laboratory bench-top to the market where it can have a meaningful impact on percutaneous coronary intervention outcomes in patients suffering from chronic total occlusions."

The work relates to a need for accurate and precise removal of calcified material when treating chronic total occlusions (CTOs) in major coronary blood vessels, and removing obstructions in the central part of an occluded vessel termed the true-lumen. This procedure involves "crossing" the occlusion with a suitable surgical wire.

CTOs were described as "the last frontier of percutaneous interventions" in a 2016 review published by Cardiovascular Engineering and Technology, which noted the main technical challenges lie in successfully crossing the guide wire into the distal true-lumen while tackling potentially inadequate visualization and the need to actively navigate through the CTO.

Katta, together with his then-doctoral mentors Thomas Milner and Marc Feldman at the BLI, invented intravascular cooling and guidance methodologies for achieving true-lumen crossing in CTOs using a cold laser wire, a thin laser probe operating at low energy so as to avoid unwanted damage or surgical consequences.

The ultimate aim is to bring this research into the clinical setting, addressing an urgent need for a suitable tool for treatment of patients suffering with CTOs.

New light-based therapeutic devices

Named for medical laser pioneer Franz Hillenkamp, the Fellowship is a partnership between five leading biophotonics centers and SPIE, the publishers of Optics.org. It is intended to provide opportunities for translating new technologies into clinical practice, for improving human health.

In 2020 the Fellowship was awarded to Fernando Zvietcovich for research into a novel biophotonics-based optical coherence elastography (OCE) technique, and translating it into clinical practice. OCE employs optical coherence tomography (OCT) to image tissue while it is under some form of transient local mechanical deformation and subsequent recovery, introducing an additional contrast mechanism to the OCT operation.

The 2019 Fellowship was awarded jointly to Jie Hui at Boston University Photonics Center for work on the use of blue laser light to disrupt the MRSA bacteria; and to Andreas Wartak at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine for research into tethered capsule endomicroscopy, in which a small optical device is swallowed by the patient and then withdrawn back up to image the esophagus.

The 2021 award to Nitesh Katta recognizes the potential for his cold laser wire procedure to have a substantial impact on the clinical treatment of CTOs, according to the co-chairs of the Hillenkamp Fellowship Committee Rox Anderson and Gabriela Apiou.

"This is a very exciting proposal from an excellent researcher working in a renowned lab for innovative research in biomedical optics and biophotonics that translates into solving medical problems," commented Anderson and Apiou. "Nitesh's work has the potential to establish a new class of simple and safe methods to operate endovascular light-based therapeutic devices, and we look forward to seeing the outcome of his work."

Applications for the 2022 SPIE-Hillenkamp Fellowship will open in the Spring of 2021.

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