Age-related macular degeneration is now the leading cause of blindness in the US. Wellman research on light-activated drugs created the first selective treatment for this disease. The treatment patent is licensed to QLT, Inc., which markets the drug under the name of Visudyne.

Glaucoma is a common eye disease causing loss of vision. Wellman research on selective photothermolysis led to selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT), a non-destructive laser treatment that normalizes the ocular pressure. This technology was licensed to Coherent Medical (now Lumenis, Inc), which markets the Selecta 7000 for treating of open-angle glaucoma.


Laser lithotripsy was invented at Wellman in the 1980s to remove impacted stones from the urinary tract. Laser pulses delivered through a fiber optic are used to pulverize the stone, avoiding surgery. The technology was licensed to Candela Corporation, which produced the first commercial laser lithotripsy system.


Safe removal of vascular and pigmented birthmarks was conceived and developed at Wellman, using a process called selective photothermolysis. Selective absorption of high-power laser pulses causes selective removal of the abnormal vessels or pigment cells, without damaging other structures and without scarring. These treatments are now widely used in dermatology.

Permanent laser hair removal was invented and first demonstrated at Wellman. Patents were licensed to Palomar Medical Products, and sub-licensed to other companies. A form of this treatment is used in the military for problems from close shaving common in African-American men.

Tattoo removal also uses the principles of selective photothermolysis developed at Wellman.

Stimulated tissue healing. Wellman investigators developed a well-tolerated, effective new treatment for aging skin changes called fractional resurfacing, in which tissue is stimulated by an array of millions of microscopic laser beam spots. Skin wrinkles, laxity and pigmentation due to chronic sun exposure are improved. Scars and other skin conditions also respond. The technology has been licensed to Reliant, Inc.


Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is a way to create “virtual slice” images of reflected light from within live tissue. Wellman investigators have invented a form of OCT ideal for high-speed, high-resolution imaging directly and through catheters and endoscopes. The technology has been patented and licensed for diagnosis of retina, coronary artery, esophagus and other diseases.

Confocal microscopy was developed for skin diagnosis, patented and licensed to Lucid Technologies, Inc. and marketed as the VivaScope. This microscope is the highest resolution medical imaging device. It provides live, non-invasive imaging within skin that in some cases can replace excisional biopsies.



Guiding treatment of heart disease

Wellman investigators have developed paradigm-shifting enhancements that have created new high-speed OCT technologies, capable of real-time, three-dimensional imaging through small catheters. This technology can distinguish fibrous, calcified and lipid-rich plaques, including the distribution of macrophage cells, critical in the potential prevention of myocardial infarction. These advances provide an unprecedented ability to actually see atherosclerosis during cardiac catheterization and to guide the therapy. This technology has been licensed to one company specifically to develop a clinical system for coronary disease diagnosis.

Retinal imaging and diagnosis
Spectral-domain OCT, the same technologically advanced OCT utilized in cardiology imaging, is being applied in the development of a clinically viable, three-dimensional imaging system for retinal disease. The technology has been licensed for this specific use.

Photodynamic Therapy for Infection
Antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections are a rapidly growing and alarming phenomenon. Light-activated treatments can circumvent the mechanisms for resistance. PDT treatments are being developed for a variety of infections, including tuberculosis and leishmaniasis. A patent for photosensitizer conjugates for pathogen targeting was issued October 2002, and is being developed with several companies in pre-clinical and early clinical studies.

Suture-less tissue repair
Photochemical tissue bonding (PTB) is a technique for rejoining tissues with a light-activated dye, which is generally faster and less traumatic than suturing. Delicate and difficult to suture tissue structures such as severed nerves, blood vessels, tendons, vocal cords and cornea, can be rejoined with PTB. This concept has been demonstrated in animals and clinical trials are in planning. US patent claims have recently been allowed.

Cancer treatment (ovarian, prostate, and gastrointestinal)
Using advanced photodynamic therapy approaches are entering cooperative clinical trials. Clinical studies are in process at the Mass General Hospital and at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School.

Laryngeal dysplasia and papillomas
Lasers developed here for selective targeting of skin microvessels have been modified for use in the larynx, and shown in collaboration with MEEI investigators to effectively treat laryngeal dysplasia and papillomas. Repeated surgeries under general anesthesia can be replaced by a rapid, well-tolerated office procedure. The US FDA approved the treatment in late 2003.