By Maryam Qarehgozlou

Iranian engineer invents world’s first hysteroscopic myolysis instrument

January 11, 2017

Mankind has always been obsessed by coming up with new ideas to make life easier. Not all inventions have been practical or appreciated in their own times but they have certainly changed the way we live now one way or another.

Ranging from fire and wheel to the most complicated space stuff almost all inventions play an important role in our everyday lives. However, by the advancement of science the inventions have become more convoluted and in order to devise a practical instrument one usually needs some certain and relevant level of expertise and a team who would be able to help with different aspects of the project.

Soroush Barmooz, a young inventor who holds a master’s degree in biomedical engineering from Amirkabir University of Technology (Tehran Polytechnic), has designed hysteroscopic surgical instruments to treat different types of benign uterine tumors called fibroids in women with a minimally invasive technique.

Barmooz, 28, who is from Mahabad, a city in the northwestern province of West Azarbaijan, believes his invention could help treat those benign uterine tumors with least side effects possible, avoiding possible complications which may occur during or after the invasive procedures and help the patients live a normal life afterwards without worrying for adverse and undesirable side effects a major surgery might cause.

Aside from the surgical improvements Barmooz’s invention would bring about it can help eliminate the social and psychological problems which may arise from the disease namely infertility and removal of the entire uterus.

In an exclusive interview with the Tehran Times, Barmooz has explained his path through his groundbreaking invention.

Below is the text of the interview.

Q: Please explain about your invention.

A: We have developed four surgical instruments for treating uterine fibroids by minimally invasive myolysis (dissolution or liquefaction of muscular tissue) techniques. The idea of developing such instruments stems from my MSc thesis which I defended in February 2014. As a part of the thesis my mission was to design a surgical hysteroscopic instrument for treating submucosal uterine fibroid (fibroids develop just under the lining of the uterine cavity).

Doctor Mustafa Rostami, board member at Amirkabir University of Technology, and Doctor Farah Farzaneh, board member at Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences helped me through the project as well.

 [Hysteroscopy is a procedure that allows the doctor to look inside the uterus in order to diagnose and treat causes of abnormal bleeding.]

My instrument is ergonomically compatible to the female reproduction system and the surgeon’s hands comprising multiple mechanisms each playing a special role to satisfy the requirements of the hysteroscopic operation. The main mechanisms are a set of surgical electrodes which are anchored inside the fibroid for coagulation means. Electricity is applied to the needles and delivered to the fibroid tissue and a subsequent necrosis (death of the cells) will occur.

The applied radio frequency (RF) electricity causes a tissue heating up which leads to a perfect necrosis and subsequently death of the tumor as a result and eventually leads to a shrinkage in the size of the fibroid that based on the scientific reports it might be up to %90 after 6 months. The necrosis also eliminates chances of tumors regrowth in the future. In addition the instrument does not affect the surrounding myometrium and the overlaying endometrium tissue thanks to the specially designed stem-insulated electrodes which means despite old methods it causes no damages to the uterus and any future pregnancy would be totally harmless and safe.

All the instruments are registered in the Iran Intellectual Property Office and United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

There are some reports indicating the use of transcervically and transendometrially methods but as far as I know those methods are not popular yet nor are there any similar instruments in the market. In the best case scenario, we are competing against the most up to date researches and anybody who gets to the finish line first will become the winner! We hope to be able to raise adequate fund as soon as possible before it becomes too late.

Q: Have the instruments proved to be effective so far? 

A: The myolysis technique is an approved method which has been under research from late 1980s up to now. The specialists are still developing the method in many scientific centers in the world. The method has been approved by many scientists by running numerous clinical tests. Our inventions comprises special tools for easing and accelerating myolysis procedure. Nowadays myolysis is being performed by laparotomy and endoscopic techniques. Of course there are some reports indicating performing that technique by transcervically and transendometrially methods but as far as I have investigated these methods are not popular yet but definitely they will become the best fitting alternative for both the laparoscopic and the laparotomic methods.

Q: Are there any similar invention in other parts of the world?

A: As I mentioned before, there are some reports indicating the use of transcervically and transendometrially methods but as far as I know those methods are not popular yet nor are there any similar instruments in the market. In the best case scenario, we are competing against the most up to date researches and anybody who gets to the finish line first will become the winner! We hope to be able to raise adequate fund as soon as possible before it becomes too late.

Our instruments are unique because there aren't any similar ones abroad or in Iran and these will be the minimally invasive instruments for treating the fibroids.

Q: You have registered your inventions at United States Patent and Trademark Office. How can this be helpful?

A: We applied for the patents in the United States for many reasons. Firstly the fibroids are %70 prevalent among the black women while its prevalence is about %30 in white women. Annually 200,000 hysterectomies are performed mainly due to fibroids in the U.S.! It’s a shame that such a huge number of hysterectomies are being performed in a country with a population of 300 million, so the U.S. will be the foremost country needing our surgical instruments as the best alternative for hysterectomies!

Secondly the U.S patent office is a leading organization in protecting intellectual properties and all credible patent offices worldwide conduct overall searches in their database and refer to U.S patent office issued patents. So applying for a patent in the U.S patent office will guarantee your rights to the invention almost internationally. A real problem regarding Iran’s Intellectual Properties Office is that their documents and databases are published and issued in Persian so that foreign countries do not conduct patent searches in Iran’s patent database which might lead to infringement of Iranians right to their inventions on international scale. It is not too late for other Iranian inventors to apply for patent in the U.S. even if they had formerly applied for the Iranian patent.

 The most apparent impact an invention or an entrepreneurial venture can exert upon a country is the economic boom. Entrepreneurs can create job opportunities for the people and fuel economic growth.

Q: Have you managed to attract any sponsor so far?

A: We have started looking for a sponsor since November and currently we are negotiating with some sponsors, banks and governmental organizations to finance our research and commercialize our instruments. We Hope to be able to raise sufficient fund soon before it gets too late to complete our mission. We believe that women deserve this to restore their health and preserving their uterine.

Q: How hard is it to apply for a patent in Iran?

A: Fortunately applying for a patent in Iran is a straightforward and coherent process. The process is being done accurately and almost fast. But the main challenge is the commercialization which is totally complicating and difficult.

Our project needs both long term scientific and financial aids and sponsoring. Investors often seek quick-impact projects. Instead of investing on a project which might come to fruition in years they can invest on a quick-impact project or importing and exporting goods and gain much more profit easily and in a shorter amount of time without taking the risks of investing on a project which may or may not pay off.

In general start-ups are good idea for commercialization, but if you conduct a search you will see the most successful start-ups are almost internet based services rather than complicated or scientific projects such as ours.

There are some governmental organizations like ‘Nahad Riasat Jomhoori’ (a presidential institution) which offers financial supports to the inventors with marketing ideas. But there are still some shortcomings and setbacks regarding the process.

For one, unnecessary bureaucracy to enter the system is pretty time-consuming. Secondly they refer the inventors to the banks to appeal for fund but the banks are either facing budget deficit or they might ask for some assets to pledge as collateral for the loan. And lastly the government may recognize the importance of the projects, but the banking system might dismiss the fact that how time is of an essence for such projects.

On the other hand, as you know China plays an important role in the world’s manufacturing industries. They manufacture almost everything and offer them by cheap and competitive prices! Of course this phenomenon has led to a wide unemployment in the U.S as well as the European countries and also our country. Merchants and manufactures prefer to buy the most affordable product instead of manufacturing domestic products at a higher price, therefore, they obviously grow less inclined to invest on new and radical ideas. Anyhow, commercialization is very difficult and energy-consuming process.

Unnecessary bureaucracy to enter the system is pretty time-consuming. Secondly they refer the inventors to the banks to appeal for fund but the banks are either facing budget deficit or they might ask for some assets to pledge as collateral for the loan. And lastly the government may recognize the importance of the projects, but the banking system might dismiss the fact that how time is of an essence for such projects.

Q: In general, how supporting inventions could help a country make progress?

A: The answer to this question has many aspects. The most apparent impact an invention or an entrepreneurial venture can exert upon a country is the economic boom. Entrepreneurs can create job opportunities for the people and fuel economic growth.

Inventions can also promote social welfare. Countries are divided into main categories as developed and developing or underdeveloped. In the underdeveloped societies even if they need advanced technologies, there is no place for innovation, because they have to go through a lot of hardship to obtain their primary needs for surviving such as clean water and hygiene. When all of the primary requirements and needs of a society are satisfied, they will enter into another phase which is satisfaction of their secondary needs including accessories to make life easier which are offered by innovative persons in various industries. One defining characteristic of a developed country is to support innovative works.  

Additionally there is a direct relation between introducing advanced technologies and the cutting-edge scientific discoveries and increased reasonable expectations in developed countries. Naturally someone who has experienced air travel cannot use the old and traditional transportation system. It is natural that they will tend for using even more advanced systems such as ultrasonic airplane transportation systems.

Q: What happens if you do not succeed in raising fund?

A: We have invented five surgical devices which need to be developed, tested, verified and certified by authorities such as universities of medical sciences and Ministry of Health. Completion of each of phases might take about two years.

We have showcased the inventions in many international exhibition, we have also interviewed on TV and with newspapers, magazines as well as websites. Additionally we’ve invited international companies and research centers to cooperate with us on the project via e-mail.

In the meantime there might be some people who adapt our idea without our confirmation or permission and start to develop it by adding or removing some features to or from our invention and make a totally different instrument which even we might fail to recognize. The competition is fierce and we must be swift to take chances and leap at every opportunity to succeed.

We named our group “Mechatronism” (like a mechanism which includes electronic devices.) We are absolutely determined and working hard day and night to get to a reasonable result. We welcome any Iranian or foreign investors, and research centers to cooperate with us or invest on our invention to develop Hysteroscopic and minimally invasive myolysis systems.

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