Scientific research is not a linear process. It is a succession of many errors, few discoveries, and, sometimes, misunderstandings. In the medical field, many misunderstood practices have been marginalised, but could still offer interesting alternatives to mainstream approaches. At the fringes of conventional medicine lies a whole world of unexplored possibilities. One of them is the exploitation of the effect of ultrasound waves on the human body.
In ultrasound-based treatments, it is not directly the sound waves that are affecting human tissue, but the heat produced by those waves under a patient’s skin. The related cavitation effect, which gives its name to the recently-completed international research project CAVITE, is the removal of malignant cells through the subcutaneous heat induced by ultrasound. Ultrasound used with the right precautions could quite literally break kidney stones, burn tumours or even fat.
‘PARTICIPATING IN A EUREKA PROJECT WAS THE ONLY POSSIBLE WAY TO COMPLETE THIS RESEARCH IN SUCH SHORT TIME.'
The advantages of this technique over conventional surgery are striking: no invasive surgery that leaves scars. It is already widely used in South-East Asia, and, in some applications, the practice is even authorised in parts of Europe and North America. But if ultrasound partisans trumpet the technique’s unlimited potential - it could be used for example as a new way to treat cancer - numerous detractors doubt the real medical potential of ultrasound.
Working with ultrasound technology for several years, Joze Jelenc, CEO of IskraMedical, decided it was time to put an end to their scepticism. ‘Mostly,’ he says, ‘the effects of ultrasound are badly understood, and the technique is practised by people with only basic medical skills, which is the source of the lack of regard given to the practice by the medical community.’ The main objective of CAVITE, which was led by Jelenc, was therefore to understand how exactly the technology affects human tissue.
A NEW MEDICAL DEVICE
After an extended initial study, Jelenc gathered an interdisciplinary team comprising physicists, engineers, biologists and medical doctors and started to test his different hypotheses. After two years of research, the results were very positive and the team was even able to develop a new medical device that can be used for strictly therapeutic treatment, as well as for medical aesthetics. Ultrasound treatment now receives the backing of medical authorities - research papers based on the project have been published in several medical revues.
‘Participating in a EUREKA project was the only possible way to complete this research in such short time,’ Jelenc says. Thanks to the EUREKA initiative the project partners, based in three different European countries, managed to receive funding from their national authorities, which helped them to accelerate their work considerably. ‘This is very important from the angle of marketing,’ says Jelenc. ‘The healthcare business has been expanding rapidly and the first to put a new piece of medical equipment on the market takes the biggest share; we made it on time and we should meet all of our objectives.’