Starfish Engineering Aims to Improve Oral Surgeries

Posted: Updated:
The startup says its technology will be most useful for oral surgeries that involve harvesting tissue in the roof of the mouth. The startup says its technology will be most useful for oral surgeries that involve harvesting tissue in the roof of the mouth.

Oral surgeries likely aren’t top of mind as risky operations, but there’s a critical artery in the roof of the mouth—invisible to the naked eye—that gives surgeons pause; cutting it can cause hemorrhaging, among other complications. Understandably, surgeons often avoid the area altogether, but a patient’s unique anatomy means the greater palatine artery may be in a slightly different place than expected. A Purdue University-affiliated startup has invented an imaging method it says will give surgeons, for the first time, a real-time visual during surgery of the exact location of the patient’s greater palatine artery.

Founded in 2016, West Lafayette-based Starfish Engineering LLC says the greater palatine artery is also intertwined with the greater palatine nerve, which opens the door to other potential complications.

“If you cut the greater palatine artery, not only will you have hemorrhaging—which is difficult to stop in certain circumstances—you’ve also severely damaged this large nerve in the roof of the mouth,” says Starfish Engineering Chief Executive Officer Brian Bentz. “And this complication can lead to a loss of feeling in parts of the mouth that can be permanent.”

Starfish Engineering says, typically, surgeons’ only guide for avoiding the artery is their knowledge of the mouth’s anatomy and the artery’s typical location. But Bentz notes the certainty of its location is still an active question in research. Recent work determines its location within four to five millimeters, which leaves room for discrepancies. Surgeons can use ultrasounds or X-rays, but Bentz says they’re expensive and difficult to implement.

Starfish Engineering believes its optical imaging technology can pinpoint the artery’s exact location. It’s comprised of two key parts: software and an imaging device. The device shines a bright LED light at the roof of the mouth, and Bentz says a camera-like system captures an image of the light that comes back.

“We focus on how much light is absorbed in the different tissues: the artery and the background tissue,” says Bentz. “A bright light source shines light into the roof of the mouth, and the light that interacts with the artery will be absorbed more than the light that interacts with the background tissue.”

That information is plugged into an algorithm, which determines the exact location of the greater palatine artery. Bentz says Starfish’s technology is best summarized as “a portable and inexpensive optical imaging device.”

Bentz notes Starfish’s method could be used in real-time during surgery. While the technology can locate the artery, the startup is deciding how to deliver that information.

“Once we determine the location of the artery, how do we give that information to a surgeon to help them during the surgery? It’s only so helpful to have just a picture of it on a screen, for example,” says Bentz. “The idea is to use a 3D printing technology to print a surgical guide—essentially, a device that would fasten onto the patient’s mouth and cover the area directly above the greater palatine artery. That’d be useful for surgical planning and for avoiding that area during surgery.”

Starfish has partnered with an oral surgeon to develop its technology. The startup believes its method will be most useful for oral surgeries that involve harvesting tissue in the roof of the mouth.

“The amount of tissue you can harvest for surgery is limited by how well you know location of these arteries,” says Bentz. “If you know their exact location at a one-millimeter depth below the roof of the mouth, you can essentially harvest more tissue to use during the surgery and reduce the need for follow-up surgeries.”

Starfish is seeking a federal grant to further develop its prototype, so it can begin human testing. The startup has worked with the Purdue Foundry and is pursuing collaborations with other companies.

Starfish is also seeking additional funding to uncover other applications for its technology, which Bentz says could address “the general problem of how do you find arteries in tissue.” But the company is making the mouth its first mission—helping surgeons hunt down the critical, but notoriously elusive, greater palatine artery.

Bentz says Starfish’s technology is less expensive and easier to implement than current imaging methods.
Bentz says the startup is determining what information is most useful for specific surgeries.
  • Perspectives

    • Mitigating Your Company’s Cybersecurity Risk

      Frequently, I encounter people who think that a software developer understands all languages and can “fix” anything tech related. While that may be true for a few, areas of expertise within tech evolve as rapidly as the technology itself. For instance, there was a time (not long ago) when operating in the cloud was revolutionary. Today, it is considered best practices for some or all of an organization to function within a cloud. Managed information technology began with...

    More

Subscribe

Name:
Company Name:
Email:
Confirm Email:
HTML
INside Edge
Morning Briefing
BigWigs & New Gigs
Life Sciences Indiana
Indiana Connections
INPower
Subscribe
Unsubscribe

Events



  • Most Popular Stories

    • (photo courtesy Dax Norton)

      Whitestown Tops Indiana's Fastest-Growing Communities

      The Indiana Business Research Center at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business says Whitestown in Boone County is Indiana's fastest-growing community for the eighth consecutive year. The center says the town's population nearly tripled, from 3,132 in 2010 to 8,627 last year. Westfield in Hamilton County is not far behind. Its population grew 5.2 percent in 2018, according to information reported by the U.S. Census Bureau. Other communities on the list include...

    • (Image courtesy of the Indiana Economic Development Corp.)

      Indy-to-Paris Flight Celebrates One Year

      One year after the first nonstop flight from Indianapolis International Airport to Paris, Airport Authority Executive Director Mario Rodriguez says the flight is "fully meeting our expectations." He says, on average, more than 1,000 passengers per week fly between Indianapolis and Paris. Delta Air Lines Flight 500 marked IND's first year-round, nonstop transatlantic air service to Europe. The airline increases the route's frequency throughout the spring, summer and fall...

    • (photo courtesy of Farmer's Fridge)

      Farmer's Fridge Expands to Indianapolis

      A Chicago-based company is looking to make fresh, healthy food as convenient in Indianapolis as a candy bar. Farmer’s Fridge has expanded to more than a dozen locations in the Indy market with its "smart fridges" the size of vending machines, which feature a variety of freshly-made products such as salads, bowls and snacks. Rachel Rischall, director of communications for Farmer's Fridge, says the food is made fresh every day and shipped to nearly 300 fridges in...

    • The Waterside project aims to transform 100-acres of the former GM Stamping Plant site. (photo courtesy of Ambrose Property Group)

      Ambrose, Glick Partner on Waterside

      Indianapolis-based Ambrose Property Group has announced a key partnership for the redevelopment of the former GM Stamping Plant in downtown Indianapolis. The commercial real estate firm is teaming up with the Gene B. Glick Co. to build and manage apartments as part of the $1.4 billion mixed-use redevelopment project. Ambrose says the partnership is also part of plans to catalyze "philanthropic and community-centric strategies to strengthen Indianapolis." The firm also...

    • Pearl will take the position on May 22

      Bloomington Launches Online Economic Development Tool

      The city of Bloomington has officially launched its new online development tool. The platform will streamline public data for current and prospective business owners and entrepreneurs.