By Wendy Sarubbi | July 15, 2015 1:28 pm

In the middle of an operation, a brain surgeon needs to access the patient’s medical images or electronic health records. But touching a computer is out of the question because the surgeon’s gloves will be contaminated. The physician can ask a nurse to access the digital files, but that takes time – something the physician may not have.

A new — and recently patented – technology, developed by College of Medicine faculty member Dr. Kiminobu Sugaya, could change the way such a surgeon would get such potentially lifesaving information. Dr. Sugaya, a specialist in neurodegenerative diseases who calls computers his hobby, developed a technology where a camera behind a glass screen reads the surgeon’s fingertip and then calls up the information the doctor needs. Because the physician never touches a computer screen or the glass, the doctor’s hands remain sterile. The fingertip recognition technology keeps the patient’s records private and the glass screen can be kept sterile more easily than a computer that collects dust.

The U.S. Patent Office recently approved the fingertip technology. The patent is one of 31 Dr. Sugaya has received for topics ranging from compounds to prevent or slow hair loss to processes that can increase neural stem cells to treat Alzheimer’s disease. “I want to solve problems,” Dr. Sugaya says of his work. “Problems trigger me to find solutions.”

With the fingertip recognition technology patented, Dr. Sugaya said he will begin presenting the idea to hospitals for consideration in their operating rooms.

Entrepreneurship is just one component of Dr. Sugaya’s research portfolio. A research pioneer in regenerating the brain through adult stem cells, he is investigating how to use a patient’s own cells to treat conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson disease and strokes. He is also investigating how to increase a patient’s own endogenous stems cells by a drug, which could provide preventative treatments for brain debilitating diseases like Alzheimer’s.

He says he has always been a discoverer and that by partnering with physicians, scientists can use their questioning spirit to find solutions to unsolved medical problems. “Being a good scientist means you want to be a kid,” he said. “When you were young you look at a watch or a clock and wonder how it works. You take it apart, look at the pieces, figure it out, re-build it. You’re always curious, always.”

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