WisBusiness: Echometrix uses ultrasound to measure properties of injury-prone tissues

By Brad Leitch

For WisBusiness.com

Imagine knowing exactly how many miles you could run, or how hard you could sprint chasing after that fly ball at the summer league softball game, and not be the least bit worried about ending up on the bench with a pulled hamstring.

Echometrix, a Madison-based firm, has made long scientific strides towards better understanding of the musculoskeletal system’s limits.

Hirohito Kobayashi, Ray Vanderby and Barbara Israel founded Echometrix in July 2007 to develop the technologies created by Kobayashi and Vanderby at UW-Madison into a business.

Echometrix has created an ultrasound system that it plans to use in sports medicine. Vanderby and Kobayashi first applied their research into the theory of acoustoelasticity to measure the properties of off-the-shelf materials. This work showed that a material’s response to stretch gives vast information regarding the makeup of the material.

This knowledge was translated to tendons, and Vanderby and Kobayashi have begun human clinical studies to determine if the technology can that help improve diagnosis by differentiating between healthy and injured tendons.

This technology has several possibilities, and Echometrix has also begun an in-depth study involving its ultrasound technology and the Naval Health Research Center (NHRC). Sam Adams, chief executive officer of Echometrix, explained that the connection between Echometrix and the NHRC was made at the Resource Rendezvous organized by the Wisconsin Security Research Consortium.

The collaboration will use Echometrix’s proprietary technology to evaluate soldiers’ Achilles and patellar tendons before and after a series of rigorous training hikes in mountainous terrain with heavily loaded backpacks.

Echometrix has its sights set on an even bigger picture. The company believes that commercialization of its advanced ultrasound will help to improve musculoskeletal health for workers, soldiers, athletes and average Americans.

Adams explained that their “partnership with NHRC is critical,” and that the research obtained from the partnership makes commercialization of the first product more feasible. In the future, Echometrix also plans use its technology to measure the rehabilitation of patients that have suffered a musculoskeletal injury and help them to manage their rehabilitation.

Echometrix was among the semi-finalists in the 2008 Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan Contest.

— Leitsch is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication.