WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2011 — An optical technology that provides unprecedented high-resolution, 3-D images of what lies below the skin's surface by simply having the probe touch the skin was developed by University of Rochester optics professor Jannick Rolland. The aim of the technology is to detect and examine lesions to determine whether they are benign or cancerous without having to excise the suspected tumor.
The prototype device developed by Jannick Rolland of the University of Rochester (right) can take high-resolution images under the skin's surface without removing the skin. Researchers say that it may eliminate the need for many biopsies to detect skin cancer. (Images: J. Adam Fenster, University of Rochester)
Rolland presented her findings at the 2011 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 19.
"My hope is that, in the future, this technology could remove significant inconvenience and expense from the process of skin lesion diagnosis," Rolland said. "When a patient walks into a clinic with a suspicious mole, for instance, they wouldn't have to have it necessarily surgically cut out of their skin or be forced to have a costly and time-consuming MRI done. Instead, a relatively small, portable device could take an image that will assist in the classification of the lesion right in the doctor's office."
A close-up of the prototype device.
The device accomplishes this using a unique liquid lens setup developed by Rolland and her team for a process known as optical coherence microscopy. In a liquid lens, a droplet of water takes the place of the glass in a standard lens. As the electrical field around the water droplet changes, the droplet changes its shape and therefore changes the focus of the lens. This allows the device to take thousands of pictures focused at different depths below the skin's surface. Combining these images creates a fully in-focus image of all of the tissue up to 1 mm deep in human skin, which includes important skin tissue structures. Because the device uses near IR light instead of ultrasounds, the images have a precise, micron-scale resolution instead of a millimeter-scale resolution.
The process has been tested successfully in vivo in human skin, and several papers on it have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Rolland says that the next step is to start using it in a clinical research environment so its ability to discriminate between different types of lesions may be assessed.
Rolland joined the faculty of the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Science's Institute of Optics in 2009. She is the Brian J. Thompson Professor of Optical Engineering and is also a professor of biomedical engineering and associate director of the R.E. Hopkins Center for Optical Design and Engineering.
For more information, visit: www.rochester.edu