GE gets $4 mln grant for nerve-sparing system

Wed Jun 9, 2010 8:00am EDT

* Will fund development over four years

* System could reduce inadvertent nerve damage in surgery

BOSTON, June 9 (Reuters) - General Electric Co (GE.N) has received a $4 million, four-year grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health to fund its development of a system that will make it easier for surgeons to see nerves as they work.

Scientists at the largest U.S. conglomerate's labs in Niskayuna, New York, have already developed a chemical that attaches to nerves and lights up under the right conditions; the funding will help them make the system ready for use in major hospitals.

It could help reduce inadvertent nerve damage during surgeries, such as can result from prostate surgeries, the company said.

"Nerves surrounding the prostate are often challenging to see and precisely locate during surgery", said Cristina Tan Hehir, a biochemist and GE's project leader for the nerve imaging. "The hope is that the technologies being developed by GE could offer surgeons a much clearer line of sight to these nerves in the operating room." (Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)