Inexpensive camera diagnoses cancer

June 24, 2010 at 4:45 PM
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HOUSTON, June 24 (UPI) -- U.S. cancer scientists said they've modified an inexpensive off-the-shelf digital camera so it can distinguish cancerous cells from healthy ones.

Rice University biomedical engineers and researchers from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center said they discovered consumer grade cameras can serve doctors as powerful platforms for diagnostic imaging.

"Based on portability, performance and cost, you could make a case for using them both to lower healthcare costs in developed countries and to provide services that simply aren't available in resource-poor countries," said Rice Professor Rebecca Richards-Kortum, the study's lead author.

In the study, the team said it captured images of cells with a small bundle of fiber-optic cables attached to a $400 Olympus E-330 camera. When imaging tissues, the researchers said they applied a common fluorescent dye that caused cell nuclei in the samples to glow brightly when lighted with the tip of the fiber-optic bundle.

Since the nuclei of cancerous and precancerous cells are notably distorted from those of healthy cells, Richards-Kortum said abnormal cells were easily identifiable, even on the camera's small LCD screen.

The study that included Dongsuk Shin and Mark Pierce, both of Rice, and Drs. Ann Gillenwater and Michelle Williams of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center appears in the online journal PLoS One.

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