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A Better Imager for Identifying Tumors
|By Business Wire
|June 19, 2014 03:45 PM EDT
Before they excise a tumor, surgeons need to determine exactly where the
cancerous cells lie. Now, research published today in The Optical
Letters details a new technique that could give surgeons cheaper
and more lightweight tools, such as goggles or hand-held devices, to
identify tumors in real time in the operating room.
Near-infrared images of the aperture filter, used in the new dual-mode imager. Only the central region of the filter can transmit visible light, while the outer portion can only transmit the near-infrared light used for fluorescent imaging. Credit: Optics Letters
The new technology, developed by a team at the University of Arizona and
Washington University in St. Louis, is a dual-mode imager that combines
two systems—near-infrared fluorescent imaging to detect marked cancer
cells and visible light reflectance imaging to see the contours of the
tissue itself—into one small, lightweight package approximately the size
of a quarter in diameter, just 25 millimeters across.
"Dual modality is the path forward because it has significant advantages
over single modality," says author Rongguang Liang, associate professor
of optical sciences at the University of Arizona.
Interest in multi-modal imaging technology has surged over the last 10
years, says Optics Letters topical editor Brian Applegate of
Texas A&M University, who was not involved in the research. People have
realized that in order to better diagnose diseases like cancer, he says,
you need information from a variety of sources, whether it's
fluorescence imaging, optical imaging or biochemical markers.
"By combining different modalities together, you get a much better
picture of the tissue," which could help surgeons make sure they remove
every last bit of the tumor and as small amount of healthy tissue as
possible, Applegate says.
Currently, doctors can inject fluorescent dyes into a patient to help
them pinpoint cancer cells. The dyes converge onto the diseased cells,
and when doctors shine a light of a particular wavelength onto the
cancerous area, the dye glows. In the case of a common dye called
indocyanine green (ICG), it glows in near-infrared light. But because
the human eye isn't sensitive to near-infrared light, surgeons have to
use a special camera to see the glow and identify the tumor's precise
Surgeons also need to be able to see the surface of the tissue and the
tumor underneath before cutting away, which requires visible light
imaging. So researchers have been developing systems that can see in
both fluorescent and visible light modes.
The trouble is that the two modes have opposing needs, which makes
integration difficult. Because the fluorescent glow tends to be dim, a
near-infrared light camera needs to have a wide aperture to collect as
much fluorescent light as possible. But a camera with a large aperture
has a low depth of field, which is the opposite of what's needed for
"The other solution is to put two different imaging systems together
side by side," Liang says. "But that makes the device bulky, heavy and
not easy to use."
To solve this problem, Liang’s group and that of his colleagues, Samuel
Achilefua and Viktor Gruev at Washington University in St. Louis,
created the first-of-its-kind dual-mode imaging system that doesn't make
The new system relies on a simple aperture filter that consists of a
disk-shaped region in the middle and a ring-shaped area on the outside.
The middle area lets in visible and near-infrared light but the outer
ring only permits near-infrared light. When you place the filter in the
imaging system, the aperture is wide enough to let in plenty of
near-infrared light. But since visible light can't penetrate the outer
ring, the visible-sensitive part of the filter has a small enough
aperture that the depth of field is large.
Liang’s team is now adapting its filter design for use in lightweight
goggle-like devices that a surgeon can wear while operating. They are
also developing a similar hand-held instrument.
optical imaging system for fluorescence image-guided surgery,” N.
Zhu et al., Optics Letters, vol. 39, issue 13, pp. 3830-3832
EDITOR’S NOTE: Images are available to members of the media upon
request. Contact Lyndsay Meyer, [email protected].
About Optics Letters
Published by The Optical Society (OSA), Optics Letters offers
rapid dissemination of new results in all areas of optics with short,
original, peer-reviewed communications. Optics Letters covers the
latest research in optical science, including optical measurements,
optical components and devices, atmospheric optics, biomedical optics,
Fourier optics, integrated optics, optical processing, optoelectronics,
lasers, nonlinear optics, optical storage and holography, optical
coherence, polarization, quantum electronics, ultrafast optical
phenomena, photonic crystals, and fiber optics. This journal, edited by
Xi-Cheng Zhang of the University of Rochester and published twice each
month, is where readers look for the latest discoveries in optics. Visit www.OpticsInfoBase.org/OL.
Founded in 1916, The Optical Society (OSA) is the leading professional
society for scientists, engineers, students and business leaders who
fuel discoveries, shape real-world applications and accelerate
achievements in the science of light. Through world-renowned
publications, meetings and membership programs, OSA provides quality
research, inspired interactions and dedicated resources for its
extensive global network of professionals in optics and photonics. For
more information, visit www.osa.org.
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