27 January 2016

A hand-held microscope will allow you to detect cancer during operations

They write about their work in the journal Biomedical Optics Express (Miniature in vivo MEMS-based line-scanned dual-axis confocal microscope for point-of-care pathology). 

Photograph: Dennis Wise / University of Washington

The development of the staff of the University of Washington and their colleagues from other universities is a two-axis confocal microscope with a 12-millimeter optical tip. Using two optical axes instead of one allowed to reduce background noise from defocused and repeatedly scattered light, which increased the sharpness of the image.

In addition, scientists have applied linear scanning technology. It uses microelectromechanical mirrors that direct an optical beam. It scans the tissues with successive lines, from which an integral image is constructed. This technology has allowed to increase the scanning speed to 16 frames per second, which is critically important in the operating room.

During tests on mouse tissue samples, researchers were able to see intracellular structures with sufficient clarity in real time at a depth of up to half a millimeter from the sample surface (video scanning of fluorescent vessels of the mouse ear at a depth of 0.075 to 0.125 millimeters). 

This made it possible to recognize the morphology of cells with reliability comparable to histological examination. Having received these results, the developers began to prepare for clinical trials of the device, which may be completed in 2-4 years.

Currently, a histological method is used to detect cancer cell degeneration and confirm the success of oncological operations. It involves taking a tissue sample, fixing it, preparing and staining the cut, followed by its microscopy. This technique requires special laboratories and a long wait for results. Due to the need for sampling, many patients of dermatologists and dentists with suspected malignant neoplasms undergo unnecessary surgical interventions.

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