LONG BEACH, Calif., May 23 -- Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin are developing a flexible, fiber optic confocal microscope capable of imaging precancerous lesions in the cervix and oral cavity without the need for invasive and sometimes painful biopsies. Researcher Kung Bin Sung and his colleagues presented their fiber optic confocal microscope at CLEO/QELS 2002. The microscope allows them to image cell nuclei in epithelial tissue, paving the way for detection of precancerous cells. The researchers say their optical imaging technique should provide a tool to noninvasively screen larger areas of suspicious tissue in real time. They are planning a clinical study with the goal of creating a cost-effective instrument for use in clinics.