Skip to main content

Click here to sign up for the Nova Scotia Health Innovation Hub newsletter and never miss an update 

“Nobody could see it until it was too late”: A grandfather’s death inspires the next generation of wound care technology

News and Updates RSS  
Karen and her grandfather at the beach wearing hats

By: Norma Lee MacLeod

Clinical trials to test a new pocket-sized imaging technology that could vastly improve wound care will soon begin in Nova Scotia. 

The Mimosa Pro is a handheld device that uses near infrared light to peer beneath the skin and detect injuries that are not visible to the naked eye. Seeing the extent of the damage below the skin will help determine whether a patient needs to see a podiatrist, a vascular surgeon to help with blood flow, or if they require more urgent treatment to prevent limb loss. It is a significant advance for diabetic patients who develop wounds and for monitoring bedsores in bedridden patients in long-term care.

The technology was developed by Dr. Karen Cross, a plastic surgeon, CEO of Mimosa Diagnostics, and Innovator in Residence at the Nova Scotia Health Innovation Hub. She was inspired by her grandfather, Calvin Coates, whose health spiraled after he developed a tiny wound at the tip of his toe. It eventually led to an amputation and his death. 

“Nobody could see it until it was too late. And that’s the story for everybody,” said Dr. Cross. “We catch people when it’s way too late. The tissue is already dead and it’s hard, hard to fix it.”

The Mimosa Pro would have changed that. “What if a family doctor would take the picture and say, there’s good blood flow here, but not here. You just need to restore blood flow. It gives people the information to say, what are the next steps,” said Dr. Cross. “When you start to get people really late in the stage of their disease, it’s very hard to bring them back. If we can catch people earlier, then we have a chance to save that tissue and save their legs. That is the whole idea behind the tech.”

Most imaging technology used to assess wounds is only available in large hospitals. The Mimosa Pro is portable and can be taken anywhere, connecting patients to specialized care without leaving their community. “The bottleneck right now for the patient is getting to the hospital or a facility to have a test done, and the wait time. This enables us to take the technology to the patient whether they are in the hospital or a rural community,” said Dr. Cross.

It’s also bringing equity to wound care. “This is the first technology in the commercial landscape that truly can assess people of colour,” said Dr. Cross.  Traditionally, the light from this type of technology is absorbed by melanin, meaning it doesn’t reach the layers where clinicians need to look. The Mimosa Pro however, has an algorithm that accounts for melanin, allowing the light to penetrate in people of any colour.

The technology is being tested and developed in Nova Scotia with support from the Nova Scotia Health Innovation Hub. It means Nova Scotians have “first access to this technology,” said Katie Cameron, Business Development Manager, Research and Innovation at the Health Innovation hub.  “I think we will be able to accelerate her timeline in Canada. When you are a start-up with no revenue, time is money.” 

The team is helping Dr. Cross make connections with the research and tech community, and to set up clinical trials and procurement. Dr. Cross says working with the Health Innovation Hub was key to her decision to move from Toronto to Nova Scotia to develop the technology. “It’s very difficult to do these kinds of trials. As a small company that’s usually quite expensive and you are unable to make a lot of progress without their help.”

Dr. Cross says the Health Innovation Hub streamlines the process. “Something that might take six months to a year in another location could take you half that time in Nova Scotia and this is because of the Health Innovation Hub.”

Other companies are noticing too. “It’s already started to attract major industry players to the province who either want to do clinical trials or they want to partner with smaller startup companies who have interesting technology. If you want to get something done, you might as well come to Nova Scotia and that’s really why I came here.”

Because of the support, she predicts Nova Scotia will be “at the forefront in the country in Med Tech and Health Tech. I believe it 100 per cent.”

Her great hope is that someday, her invention tested and tried in Nova Scotia will save lives. She believes her grandfather would be alive “if we had that screening tool that said yes, this is a problem, he needs to go to the hospital, he needs to be treated. Instead, he went weeks and sometimes months without having any intervention. It’s not the doctors’ or nurses’ fault. They didn’t know.”