New optical devices may speed diagnosis of disease

The devices allow doctors to compare diseased tissue with healthy tissue during surgery and observe cell-level actions during surgery.

By Stephen Feller

LONDON, May 25 (UPI) -- Two new imaging devices could allow for noninvasive biopsies to test for disease, as well as faster imaging for disease detection during surgical procedures, according to scientists who developed them.

Using an imaging technique called multi-photon excited fluorescence microscopy, scientists in England created a 3D-imaging device impervious to movement in the body and an endoscope with its own light source for cell-scale examination.


Both devices, designed for use during surgery, may allow doctors to more quickly to compare cancer cells with healthy ones and observe actions among cells while working, potentially speeding up diagnosis and treatment selection and cutting costs along the way.

Scientists have been looking for better, less invasive ways to test for disease, investigating liquid biopsies and genetic markers for cancer, among other methods.

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"These new devices open up exciting possibilities in the field of in-situ diagnosis and could help improve patient care in the future," Dr. Chris Dunsby, a researcher at Imperial College London, said in a press release.

One of the two devices is a lightweight handheld microscope designed to allow surgeons to examine external or exposed tissue during a procedure, allowing for the capture of 3D images for further analysis at the completion of surgery. Tracking mechanisms in the device allow it to compensate for patient movement, such as breathing.


The other device is a tiny endoscope measuring a fraction of a millimeter. The device uses specially designed optical fibers and light controls that can be inserted into the body for cell-scale examinations during surgery -- giving doctors a view of individual cells at work within tissues.

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Although both devices require further development and refining, as well as trials to see if they work in practice, scientists at the Imperial College London and the University of Bath, where they were developed, expect they may be ready for doctors within the next decade.

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